“This is a ripe moment for specialty food,” said Jonathan Deutsch, professor at Drexel University and director of Drexel Food Lab, during an Ask the Experts webinar, Thursday. Drexel and fellow SFA Trendspotter Melanie Bartelme, global food analyst at Mintel, fielded questions about the trends that will take us through 2021 and beyond. Key takeaways included:
Cheese consumption is up as consumers look for comfort and indulgence at home.
“Cheese, especially artisan cheese, can be a special occasion purchase, often eaten at restaurants. However, now that many people are eating more meals at home, we’re seeing restaurant-level cheeses on weeknight tables, or for virtual happy hours,” said Deutsch. “I’m seeing really elaborate home charcuterie and cheese boards, especially on social media, which makes sharing culinary creativity easy and low stakes.”
“I think there’s more room now for ‘fancifying’ everyday cheese. The thought is now, ‘Why wait for the weekend to really treat yourself?’, said Bartelme. “I’m also seeing ‘fruitcuterie’ and ‘jarcuterie’ trends, where customers are putting a wonderful assortment of fruits and jam alongside cheese and nuts.”
Specialty food forges connections
“Specialty food can really be a hero in getting people connected through the pandemic and beyond,” said Deutsch. “Some of my friends are doing unboxing Zoom parties with their subscription boxes.”
Deutsch also noted that virtual cooking classes have gained popularity. “We’re seeing great Zoom cooking classes all over. Fellow Trendspotter Chef Clara Park did an Indian cooking class for the Free Library of Philadelphia Culinary Literacy Center. It was so fun to watch everyone turn out the same dish synchronously in their home kitchens.”
Meanwhile, Bartelme sees many specialty food brands connecting with consumers over social media. “I have been noticing brands trying to promote everyday holidays and occasions on social. There was more Lunar New Year discussions this year than I’ve ever seen and I love that Milk Bar posted something encouraging consumers to celebrate the everyday, like their mail carrier’s birthday!”
Tik Tok, especially is a burgeoning platform for food brands to reach consumers. “I think Tik Tok is going to keep growing for food,” added Bartelme. “It’s such an easy way to learn and so engaging. And brands are embracing Tik Tok trends. For example, Barilla had a recipe on Instagram for a baked feta pasta that went viral.”
Food sourcing is still important, but value is also a high priority.
“Even before the pandemic, consumers were looking for more local and sustainable options,” said Bartelme. “But now, the pandemic has shown the fragility of the food system, so local is taking on a new meaning. Now it’s about consistency of supply and access to products.”
Deutsch acknowledged that there are still some consumers who are prioritizing value and convenience.
Bartelme agreed, “Consumers need to be sure of the value of the products they are buying, especially when it comes to lesser known brands and ingredients. Brands need to make that value proposition really clear.”