FMCG gets 2020 vision

January 02, 2020

If the last ten years have proved anything, it’s that no company - big or small - can risk getting complacent. The faster technology evolves, the faster consumers want to be understood and given what they want, when they want it - if you can’t keep up, you risk following a similar fate to Blockbuster, Maplin, Toys ‘R’ Us and more.

There’s of course also been some impressive game-changers that arose - Dollar Shave Club, Halo Top and Glossier - proving that incumbents are no longer relying on their global recognition to connect with customers. It takes so much more.

So what can we expect from 2020 - a new year and new decade where nothing is impossible?

1: Time to bake new ground

You may be used to using old bananas for banana cake or stale loaves for bread and butter pudding, but in 2020 we’ll see a huge shift into zero-waste cooking. Rather than composting leftovers, more products and recipes will be introduced that use the usual ‘cast offs’ from everyday produce - think stalks, stems, root tops, peels and pits.

On top of this, brands will invest in ways to keep food fresh for longer, reducing the need to throw it away. Heard of the Cosmic Crisp? Scientists have developed a brand new cross-breed of apple that has been developed to have a much longer shelf life. Will 2020 be the year we get familiar with the idea of ‘unspoilable’ produce - and if so, what will be the next fruit or vegetable to get the boost of life?

2: In order to succeed, you need to feel it

You may have come across the term ‘mood food’ towards the tail end of the 2010s - well next year, it’s set to go beyond health stores and supermarkets and enter the restaurant industry. You will start to find menus designed specifically to positively impact the emotional state of their diners.

Casual dining in Western countries has had a hard time over the past few years, with consumers choosing to eat on-the-go over sitting in - leading to a number of chains going under, like Jamie’s Italian. However, tailoring menus to how customers are feeling - and want to feel - could be what turns it all around and brings the crowds back.

Of course, the key to success here is understanding how consumers feel when they eat different foods - and the emotional context that influences the decision making.

3: Lettuce not beet around the bush

2019 was undoubtedly the year that plant-based meat alternatives went mainstream - with the likes of Burger King, McDonald’s and Greggs all testing new meat-free menu options. This trend will continue to gain steam as brands, restaurants and supermarkets - KFC, M&S, Aldi, etc - all planning big launches in the coming months.

The difference this year will be that product ranges will expand beyond the standard and move into more competitive areas, particularly children and baby food. As of yet incumbent brands like Quorn have maintained a strong hold on child-friendly vegan products, but will the new kids on the block be able to overthrow them?

4: Let’s sweet in the middle

Since the introduction of the 2018 Sugar Tax, brands have had to become more transparent over the ingredients they use - and this has been shown to successfully increase consumer awareness over the amount of sugar they consume. However, concerns over artificial sweeteners also remain high - so this coming year we expect to see companies move away from traditional ingredients that consumers have grown tired of.

What will this look like? While personal health will be more of a priority than ever, consumers still want to indulge - meaning brands have to find the sweet spot between the two. This has been coined ‘permissible indulgence’ and will be how brands - particularly confectionary - have to position themselves to retain their market share.

5: Loaf me alone

Meal times used to be a very social occasion - and in some markets it still is! - but Western culture has turned eating into an ‘on-the-go’ and individual activity.

With such busy schedules and the weaning of casual dining, providing single servings of products that were once targeted at families and groups is becoming essential. We’re talking loaves of bread, premium frozen meals and savoury snacks - all catered specifically to be eaten alone.

However, this could also be a challenge for brands to bring back the community element to dining - creating an environment where people are able to reconnect with each other, without feeling like an imposition to their daily routine. Who’s up for this challenge - and is it possible to reverse the effect urban living has had on the food industry?

6: Here for a good time and a long time

Two of the biggest themes for the 2010s were sustainability and health - well the line between the two is disappearing. What’s good for us and what’s good for the planet will become one and the same.

Sustainability - the word on everyone’s lips - has become a key priority for businesses, governments and communities across the globe but also continues to evolve. Consumers are starting to acknowledge ‘sustainable’ products as both environmentally friendly and good for our bodies - whether that be down to the use of chemicals in packaging, where ingredients come from or simply manufacturing processes.

This means that they will begin to favour products with multiple benefits - not simply recyclable or organic but both - putting added strain on brands. This means that the companies who understand how different consumers define sustainability and what’s an ‘ethical’ product will be able to gain market share. It’s not enough to focus on one area of improvement - can brands keep up with demand?