Opportunities Abound for 2021

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Here’s an expert look at rapidly evolving consumer trends and how you can profit from them.

Shoppers are experimenting with home cooking, using new foods and new flavors. With shoppers spending more time at home because of COVID, the growing trend toward more home cooking has accelerated. Look for more non-traditional flavors — products with ingredients such as turmeric, black garlic, curry, ginger, beets and mushrooms. This, along with aging taste buds of Boomers, has increased the importance of spiced (not necessarily hot!) foods.

Who doesn’t miss restaurant dining? With so many restaurants hurt by the pandemic, consumers are eager to make their restaurant favorites at home. So this is an excellent time for retailers to be promoting ingredients and recipes.

You can find synergies with restaurants. You already know about the growth of restaurant-branded frozen foods, from Chili’s to Arby’s to P.F. Chang’s. And we’ll see more of this as foodservice works to make up sales lost to the pandemic.

But retailers, too, are adding their own sophisticated foods to match restaurant meals. In fact, the softness in foodservice makes it a good time to hire talented culinary chefs who are out of work. For example, Wegmans’ website lures culinary professionals by noting that “our store is your pantry—meaning you’ll cook with the best, freshest ingredients all the time… you’ll work side by side with excellent, experienced chefs making fresh, delicious food. You’ll also get support to grow your skills as a culinarian, and as a manager, by participating in seminars and certification programs, and have the opportunity for mentorship by a regional or executive chef.”

We’ll also see more occasions of chefs working with retailers and/or creating their own brands. One of my favorite success stories is Chef Maria Loi, who last year was named one of the top Women Makers by Whole Foods, as one of the best female-owned and operated brands/supplies working with the retailer. A New York City restaurateur (Loi Estiatorio), author, TV personality and the founder of the Loi brands, she’s just one example of the synergies that can be had in the blending of retail and foodservice.

While you can pick up some good ideas by Googling Maria Loi, you needn’t aim for the stars. Smaller retailers can partner with regionally popular chefs and promote new restaurant-branded offerings in their stores. What’s stopping you?

‘Healthy’ is healthier than ever — especially plant-based. Many brands have tapped into these trends with innovative products featuring the inclusion of probiotics, less salt, less sugar and cleaner labels. Shoppers interested in healthy eating also tend to be more focused on preventing food waste and spoilage. For this reason, promoting the longer shelf life of frozen foods can resonate with shoppers.

Happily, food technology has come a long way. Veggie burgers don’t taste like cardboard anymore, and packaging has become more important in terms of both aesthetics and environmental friendliness.

Further, innovative plant-based foods are gaining traction in frozen and dairy categories. Retailers would be well served to devote more space and promotion to them. They can also differentiate by making more prominent use of the many nutritionists and health care providers that are joining retailers lately.

Watch for emerging business models. Look at the success of Thrive Market (thrivemarket.com), the online marketer specializing in the delivery of healthy, organic foods. It’s tagline, “Healthy living made easy,” says it all.

Consider Misfits (misfitsmarket.com), which encourages shoppers to “Fight food waste with organic produce and sustainably sourced pantry staples delivered to your door—up to 40% off grocery store prices.” The company sells high-quality food that may be short-dated or have aesthetic imperfections. Imperfectfoods.com offers a similar service.


Just recently, I’ve been hearing about greenhouses going up on undevelopable tracts in inner cities, to provide local fresh produce. Hydroponics, still in its infancy, has enormous potential. What new creative uses for short-dated chicken might you find besides putting it into a rotisserie? How can you partner with local restaurants? New opportunities are everywhere.

Phil Kafarakis is a global food industry analyst and the former president of the Specialty Food Association. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Phil Kafarkis

Phil Kafarkis

Phil Kafarakis is a global food industry analyst and the former president of the Specialty Food Association. He can be reached at [email protected]

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