Grocery giant, Kroger provided its food trends recap of 2020 and predictions for 2021 over the weekend. And while the list is definitely a PR move, it does provide a little insight into where the retailer thinks food is headed over the coming year.
But before we get into Kroger’s predictions, let’s take a quick look back at what foods trended at the retailer over 2020. Kroger compiled its results from year-over-year sales growth across Kroger’s business including its roughly 2,800 retail stores as well as pickup, delivery and ship. Based on that, these foods were the big winners of 2020:
- Zero-Calorie Soft Drinks
- Four-Cheese Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese
- Flavored Potato Chips (Hot & Spicy, Regional Flavors & Meal-Inspired Varieties)
- Sauvignon Blanc Wine
- Heavy Whipping Cream
- Fresh Burger Patties
- Artisan Breads & Restaurant-Style Buns
- Bulk Individual Coffee Pods (96-Count)
- Party-Size Bags of Variety Chocolate
- Black Forest Ham
Snacks. Cheese. Wine. Kroger’s list does seem to accurately reflect our collective mood during the pandemic year, when most of us were locking down and not leaving the house. Perhaps what’s more interesting, however, is what’s not on that list: Plant-based foods. Or plants of any kind, really.
This lack of plant-based burgers is in contrast with larger data showing that sales of plant-based meat (Beyond Burgers, Impossible Burgers, etc.) skyrocketed during the pandemic. The animal-based meat supply chain was strained as people panic-shopped, and ethical concerns over meat processing were raised as meat packing facilities became COVID hotspots.
That there were no plant-based foods on Kroger’s list could be a function of the type of shoppers the store gets, or that the growth in plant-based foods wasn’t enough when compared with the other foods. Snack foods, in particular made a comeback during the pandemic as we all tried to find comfort where we could.
Comfort food is actually a trend that Kroger sees continuing into 2021, writing that “Easy-to-prepare comfort foods are on the rise as consumers look to balance convenience and quick preparation times with flavorful meal options.”
While plant-based foods may have been absent from Kroger’s 2020 trends list, the retailer predicts that a “ketotarian” diet will become more popular this year. As Kroger explains, a ketotarian diet is “a plant-based spin on traditional keto guidelines. Consumers can expect to find a growing selection of these plant-based, high-protein foods on grocery shelves in the year ahead.”
While we’re talking about plants, Kroger also predicts that mushrooms will play a bigger role in our diets this year, writing “Consumers should expect to see mushrooms play a starring role in a variety of new products in 2021, including blended plant-based proteins, condiments, spices, seasonings and more.” We’ve actually been watching this mushroom mania play out over the past year here at The Spoon as mushrooms and mycelium kept popping up as the backbone for new types of proteins including cuts of plant-based meat.
One of Kroger’s 2021 predictions is also near and dear to our Spoon hearts: Innovation in the fresh food aisle. Kroger said to look out for in-store hydroponic farms and plant-based coatings like Apeel that extend the shelf-life of produce among the new technologies to look out for.
A trend that Kroger didn’t mention was food-as-medicine, a space which the retailer has been a leader in. We probably shouldn’t tie this list too much into overall business strategy for the company, but it’s noticeable, given everything that is on the list.
Whether or not it’s a PR stunt, Kroger’s predictions actually seem pretty reasonable, though I wish they had predicted a few more robots, especially since they are building out all those automated warehouses.