Issue 1 - February, 2021 - Brian Emmerton, RD

Food Trends in 2021: Do You Know What to Expect?

Trying to figure out what your customers are going to be looking to buy as business adjusts and recovers from the global pandemic?  You are not alone!

Aside from the expected trends that will continue to impact the industry (such as a demand for contactless experiences, enhanced safety, and preparation for upcoming regulatory issues like single use plastic bans), many consumer researchers agree that monitoring the ebb and flow of food trends might be more difficult this year to pin down. Technomic, a global organization that has followed food trends for years, has kept abreast through customer research ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted away from home consumption. It is clear that despite what is currently unknown, there are trends that are expected remain in 2021.  Here are a few trends that we recommend operators consider:

Back to Comfort: In-Home Dining and A Return to Made-From-Scratch Preparation 
Customers are looking for items and flavours that provide calmness with a return to historic preferences.  The impact that food (and brands) has on our psyche can not be forgotten.  Consumers respond to food preferences and brands through psycho-emotional reactions (think about having Campbells Tomato Soup in childhood with a grilled cheese, or the first time you shared a Kit Kat bar with a friend or sibling).  These back-to-comfort emotions give a sense of calmness and most often these reactions are favourable towards the product and brand.  Capturing this positive reaction at the proper day/meal part means you can tap into these emotions to increase the instance of impulse purchases and drive higher cheque averages.

How can you respond to this? The common flavours and brands that emit a positive psycho-social reaction need to be front and center. For example, Mountain Dew for baby boomers, any brands that focus on nostalgia (think retro packaging promotions), traditional flavours in your offerings (think salt and vinegar chips) become important again.  The top offerings continue to be important right now.

Health Takes a Back Burner?
The pandemic has had an impact on our personal lives and has had a significant downturn in the economy.  Did you know that food habits often change and align to economic changes?  When the economy faces a downturn, it is common to see a return to brown-bagging (which operators don’t want!), the death of decadence, and a return to comfort foods (which are not always the healthiest options).  When the economy is growing you will often see food intake change to reflect this. For example, health and wellness interest rises, indulgences increase, and people will often seek out new flavours and/or new products.  

How can you respond to this? Aside from the comfort foods, the demand for uber healthy items will drop (although not permanently).  Balance out your lower calorie, lower fat, and hyper-healthy choices (as there will still be people who want these items) by ensuring you offer choice.  Now is not the time to switch out your cream portions for milk! Lastly, remember that now is the time to make sure your customer facing feedback program is active; in place-consumers want to know that you are listening to them more and more.   

Need assistance in sourcing items for your vending, office coffee, or micro-market operation? Let Complete Purchasing Services (CPS) vending (formerly Univend) help you to find the perfect mix of products for your customer base. Whether you are looking for comforting, traditional, or new and on-trend products, take advantage of CPS’ “Best Value” pricing on hundreds of essential items and assistance from a dedicated locally-based Account Manager.

About the Author:
Brian Emmerton is a Registered Dietitian and the Vice President and General Manager of Complete Purchasing Services Inc, a leading supply chain solutions provider for hospitality and non-commercial clients in Canada. Brian has been working in foodservice and consumer affairs for over 30 years to help clients source food and nutrition options that deliver experiences that enrich and nourish lives. Learn more about Complete Purchasing Services by visiting

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