New Hope Network, which regularly tracks industry trends, took a deep dive into the ripple effects of the pandemic through evolving consumer preferences, new approaches by retailers and shifting strategies among brands.
“It’s certainly challenging to forecast in a pandemic but we have seen COVID-19 clearly push bubbling trends into warp speed in 2020 and anticipate further acceleration of these trends even as life begins to return to more normalcy in the future. Despite all the changes in how we are shopping for and consuming products this year, innovation and a commitment to higher ideals remain the drivers of this industry and we expect our community to pull through this with renewed strength,” said Eric Pierce, Vice President of Business Insights, New Hope Network.
The six trends are explained below and additional information is available online about how each trend is playing out, the data points that are validating them and the predictions for 2021 and beyond. For a closer look at natural products trends, industry members can tune-in for Natural Products Expo Virtual: a platform supporting five virtual events in 2021, and providing a year-long solution for staying connected. The first event, Spark Brand Success, is scheduled for March 2-4 and will provide inspiration and best practices to help natural products brands thrive.
1. Brands Going Direct to Consumer: In May 2020, a New Hope Network NEXT Data and Insights survey identified a nearly 30% increase in U.S. consumers who regularly buy groceries online, compared to 20% in 2017. In November 2020, 43% of online grocery shoppers said they plan to continue online grocery shopping the same amount as they did during stay-at-home. As more shoppers embrace online shopping, this trend will continue beyond the pandemic. Consumers will come to expect to be able to shop when they want, how they want, and this includes ordering directly from the companies they've become loyal fans to.
2. Plant-Based Innovation: Plant-based eating was already on the rise coming into 2020, with a market share that grew by 11.4% in 2019 to reach $5 billion, according to data from the Plant Based Food Association (PBFA) and SPINS. Whether innovation in this area is driving sales or sales are driving innovation, it is clear that plant-based food and beverage innovation will continue to grow. Watch for plant-based innovations that attempt to reduce processing and increase the nutritional attributes of meat and dairy alts, as well as those with functional ingredients. Also take notice of plant-based companies on a mission to make healthy, animal-product alternatives more accessible, with the goal of creating a more equitable and plant-based food system for all.
3. Daily Immune Support Amid the Pandemonium: The year 2020 proved to be the banner of all banner years. Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) tracked immunity supplements to grow at an eye-popping 51.2% over 2019 sales. The biggest winner of all is elderberry—the purple syrupy herb was pegged by NBJ to grow at just north of 200% in 2020. But it’s not even just immune-centric supplements that consumers are snatching up—sales of multivitamins, the cornerstone of nutritional wellness, were up about 112% in 2020. Even with approved vaccines signaling the light at the end of the tunnel, the idea of maintaining wellness is not lost on anybody. That spells a new, significantly elevated baseline for supplements in general and immune-support products specifically.
4. New Ways of Brand Storytelling: In recent years, brands have been on a path of communicating through greater depth and value. Survey results from New Hope Network NEXT Data and Insights suggest that consumers are still keyed into these behaviors and continue to care about brands that uphold their values. Specifically, 30% of consumers who prioritize natural brands, products or ingredients say they are doing more research than normal to understand the political views of brands and retailers. It's difficult to replace the sensory experience that product sampling provides but 2020 has forced brands to think beyond traditional marketing messaging, providing an opportunity for greater depth in telling the story behind the products and the values of the people behind the companies. This level of transparency is what consumers want—and will demand—going forward.
5. Quest for Rest: Getting better sleep is not just about sleeping pills. After a few flat years, melatonin has suddenly roared back to life, with 2019 sales growth pegged at 14%, and another 17% in 2020, according to Nutrition Business Journal data. Melatonin makes up about half of all healthy sleep supplement ingredients in market share, followed by hemp CBD at 13% and combination herbs at 11%.
6. Plant-Based Ethics/Responsible Animal Protein: Though seemingly on opposite ends of the spectrum, these trends go hand in hand in many regards—each in its own way a reaction to people’s growing concern about injustices in the conventional dairy and meat industries. According to New Hope Network’s NEXT Data and Insights survey results, 46% of consumers find the 100% grass-fed certification important when shopping for meat products. In addition, 39% find USDA Certified Organic important while 34% find Certified Humane important. Transparency around sourcing standards will continue to expand in both categories, and flexitarian consumers will be wooed by the increasing number of products that offer convincing plant-based alternatives at competitive prices. Although plant-based milk and meat products will continue to boom, plant-based butters, eggs and seafood will continue to grow as important plant-based categories.
About New Hope Network
New Hope Network is at the forefront of the healthy lifestyle products industry. With solutions for the complete supply chain from manufacturers, retailers/distributors, service providers and ingredient suppliers, the network offers a robust portfolio of content, events, data, research and consultative services. Through its mission of growing healthy markets to bring more health to more people, New Hope Network helps businesses identify the people, products, partnerships and trends that create better opportunities and connections. For more information visit www.newhope.com.
About Informa Markets:
Informa Markets creates platforms for industries and specialist markets to trade, innovate and grow. We provide marketplace participants around the globe with opportunities to engage, experience and do business through face-to-face exhibitions, targeted digital services and actionable data solutions. We connect buyers and sellers across more than a dozen global verticals, including Pharmaceuticals, Food, Medical Technology and Infrastructure. As the world's leading market-making company, we bring a diverse range of specialist markets to life, unlocking opportunities and helping them to thrive 365 days of the year.