Consumer priorities continue to shift to prioritize convenience and a balance of healthy & fun

“Consumers are relaxing their vigilance, just a little bit,”​ Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight at Mintel, told attendees at IFT’s virtual annual meeting & expo (IFT FIRST) this week.

Pointing to consumers’ “top factors when shopping for food and drink”​ in July 2020 to March 2021, she explained that the percentage of consumers who listed eating healthy as a priority dropped from 65% in July 2020 to 59% in March 2021. Likewise, only 31% of people listed limiting meat as a priority in March compared to 48% last July, and the percentage of consumers prioritizing cooking from scratch dropped from 65% to 50%, Dornblaser noted.

The only priorities that did not changed dramatically were choosing easy to prepare foods, which fell only 1% from 47% to 46%, and choosing ethical food and drink, which held strong at 32% compared to 34% in the same time period, she added.

“As you can see from this, not every single thing needs to be a healthy choice, but more and more products still need to be a convenient choice,”​ Dornblaser said.

Fresh prepared gains traction

She explained that this is opening the door for more freshly prepared foods, which were gaining popularity among consumers even before vaccinations were widely available. According to Mintel data, as of last September, 52% of consumers purchased rotisserie chickens, 44% pre-made sandwiches, 41% fried chicken, 39% salads, 38% hot pizza and 23% juice smoothies.

“As you can see, there’s a need for even more choices for all those convenient meal solutions, and also tips and instructions for quick recipes to create those meals quickly and easily. How many different ways to use rotisserie chicken, for example,”​ Dornblaser said.

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