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Ambient – Emerging food trends

As the home becomes the heart of everything, the increase in ‘dine-in at home’ occasion has pushed consumers to venture away from the usual repertoire of weekly meals. The closure of food establishments has meant that ‘at-home’ cooking has become both an opportunity for consumers to try new recipes /products, and a chance for manufacturers to provide products that significantly enhance this experience.   

Typical consumer shopping habits have changed notably in Covid-19 driving stock up behaviour and trial of new products. The ambient food and beverage categories saw +$190B in sales with a 2% increase in volume in the QTR to July. Approximately 85% of categories saw growth across the ambient sector, including flour and bread mixes (50.7%), seasonings (35%), bottled sauces (19.5%) and cooking oils (16.2%) to name a few. This comes as no surprise as 33% of consumers relied on such products to make cooking simple and time-efficient at home. 

With a myriad of products available on the shelf, what truly is exciting and important to consumers?  

1.   Convenience: Manufacturers need to consider how to provide time-saving products. Shoppers are on a continual lookout for anything that makes their life easier in the kitchen that does not comprise on food quality. An example of a product is The Food Company who is offering ambient chopped garlic in a jar. The brand has seen 50% growth vs. YA and a +6.7%pt penetration increase through their offer. Despite a premium, a shopper would rather pay more, rather add additional work of peeling and crushing garlic in their meals.

2.   Authenticity: Whether cooking an Indian curry, pasta or dumplings, the consumer is looking for authentic ingredients. These dishes must resonate with something they had in a restaurant or back in their hometown. Manufacturers have leveraged on this with Spice Taylor introducing complete meal kits that provide authentic Indian recipes with spices, sauces and stocks individually portioned and sealed, ready for use. Campbells has created laksa and dumpling soup bases as Asian recipe stocks reach 2.3% penetration. Consideration of how products create the right flavour profile and a focus on ease and simplicity will be most appealing to the average cook.  

3. Burgeoning of plant-based products This trend continues to expand across multiple ambient categories like milk, milk modifiers, flour, sugar and sweeteners to name a few. It is estimated that the value of the plant-based market will be $1.5bn globally by 2022. Vitasoy and OatLyf are driving the Oat Milk Category with a +1.4pp increase in shopper penetration vs. YA. On the other hand, brands like Milo are calling out ‘plant-based alternative’ on their milk modifiers to cater to this trend. Products like Barilla Red Lentil pasta, coconut flour by McKenzies and Hudson’s Jackfruit are growing in popularity because of their perceived health benefits and substitute appeal. In markets like the UK & US, jackfruit has been gaining significant traction as a protein substitute. Many cafés and restaurants have incorporated this on this on their menu as well.

In addition to all the key trends, Manufacturers and retailers also want to consider both health trends and ‘on-trend’ ingredients and movements. Non-GMO, free-from, added protein remains at the forefront today.

Looking into 2021, It is likely for 66% of Australians to continue to create meals from scratch and 50% be willing to pay for premium as we see the trend of at-home consumption continuing. This will open new opportunities for manufacturers to innovate and retailers to optimise their range within Ambient categories –  with the focus on each of the individual trends or an amalgamation of two or more.