Industry predictions are fraught with difficulties at the best of times; with a global pandemic in full swing, they become almost impossible. Nevertheless, in the FMCG space, there have been some noticeable trends developing, many with roots stretching back long before the spread of COVID-19. With many consumers re-evaluating their diets and lifestyles in light of the novel coronavirus, food and drink brands are exploring how innovation can grant them a competitive edge. At the same time, broader trends, like the rise of plant-based diets, are also being explored.

At Innoleaps, we have worked with a number of leading FMCG brands, empowering them to not only foresee and adapt to emerging industry trends but shape bold new ones. Here are three of the most important developments coming to the FMCG sector in the next 12 months.

Going plant-based

Plant-based diets have been increasing in popularity for several years, a trend that the coronavirus has accelerated. Back in April last year, research found that 18% of global consumers planned to include more plant-based foods in their diets due to COVID-19; by May, this figure had reached 24%, suggesting that this trend isn’t going to fade away any time soon.  Long before the virus, many individuals were switching meat out of their meals in exchange for plant-based products for health, ethical, or environmental reasons. Over the last four years, the number of vegans in Europe has doubled

For FMCG brands, it’s important to understand the context surrounding the rise of plant-based diets. Many customers are looking to cut down their meat consumption, adopting flexitarian diets rather than going meat-free entirely. Others simply want to be better informed about the sustainability of the meat-based products they buy. From supermarkets to fast-food chains, there are more plant-based options than ever before. Brands now need to do more than simply sticking a ‘V’ on their products if they want to stand out.

Immunity & well-being

Connected to the rise of plant-based diets, many consumers are seeking products that display their health-boosting credentials. FMCG brands that promote immunity benefits are enjoying a period of growth, with Pureearth, an organic drinks company, experiencing a 254% sales increase following the coronavirus lockdown. Sales of health supplements are also surging, with the global immune health supplement market set to be worth $29.4 billion by 2027. Clearly, FMCG brands that can leverage a health-conscious image stand to capture the consumers’ attention.

Within this trend, however, there remain many opportunities for FMCG brands to be inventive and original. Fermentation, viewed as a natural way of preserving food and promoting digestive wellness, is an area that could be explored further, for example. Similarly, FMCG brands would do well not to neglect the importance of mental health in their product marketing.

 The importance of convenience

Although the pandemic has resulted in most individuals spending more time indoors, this has not dampened the consumer desire for convenience. In fact, sales of frozen foods have surged as coronavirus restrictions have come into force around the world. A 2019 study by Deloitte found that 58% of consumers had replaced regular meals with to-go snacks or meals at least occasionally. With more families trapped indoors now, the reasons why convenience is so important has shifted. If commuting no longer cuts into mealtimes, then home-schooling or ‘lockdown fatigue’ may be taking its place.

Undoubtedly, the pandemic has changed the type of convenience that consumers crave. With health-conscious diets becoming more popular, convenience no longer means junk food. Ecommerce has certainly grown to make shopping more convenient, meaning that consumers don’t have to accept unhealthy takeaway options. Dutch online-only supermarket Picnic, for example, saw sales increase 15-fold following the outbreak of the pandemic, with many other FMCG firms similarly trying to scale up their Ecommerce operations.

COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of subscription, or direct-to-consumer, business models for many FMCG brands. Companies like Gousto, Hello Fresh and Mindful Chef, have seen customer figures sky-rocket, with many services championing their health-conscious ingredients as much as their convenience.

The trends mentioned above will continue to shift in the coming months and years and the most innovative FMCG brands are already focusing on the next big thing. With new, disruptive players being formed all the time, standing still isn’t an option.

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