October 26, 2022

Understanding post-Covid shifts in customer behaviour, with SIAL Insights

Consumers are thinking more about what they eat and making choices that they believe will help to make the world a better place, according to research conducted on behalf of SIAL.

SIAL Insights grants visitors access to leading analysis of the food industry’s major consumption trends and developments, with assistance from partners Kantar, ProtéinesXTC and NPD.

No fewer than 65% of people see choosing food as a civic duty that influences the type of world they live in, according to the Kantar Insights Food 360 Study 2022, the results of which are outlined in SIAL Insights for SIAL Paris 2022. 

As well as thinking of the wider world, consumers are also looking after their own health when deciding what food to eat, with 67% having changed their diet to make it healthier over the past two years.

Environmental concerns are prominent too, with 36% saying they have altered their diets to take account of their impact on the planet.

Even the United States, where environmental concerns around food had been less prominent than in some other nations, is now seeing environmental concerns move up the list of consumer priorities.

“It should be noted that these concerns are spreading to areas that were previously reluctant to modify their behaviour, such as Asia and the Middle East, where more and more people are starting to take an interest in healthy, ecological, or local products,” the SIAL Insights report says.

It further states that there is a “flattening out” of responsible consumption in Europe, with what is being offered by the market now closely aligned to expectations.

Tying in with this, the popularity of organic food, which had increased in the last three surveys, was down slightly in 2022 overall, with notable declines seen in France and Spain.

Yet Italy, which already had some of the most environmentally conscious consumers, is seeing ever-greater commitment to ecological issues.

While many other factors are at play, the SIAL Insights study found that enjoyment drives food choices for no fewer than 71% of people, two percentage points up on the previous survey, while half of product innovations refer to enjoyment.

Temptation gets the better of many consumers, with almost half saying that they have turned to comfort foods with high fat, sugar or salt content during or since the pandemic.

The importance of value for money is also at the front of consumers’ minds, the report states, illustrated by the plateau in organic produce sales which is typically more expensive than produce grown using herbicides or pesticides.

Food industry trends that remain in the post-Covid world 

While the pandemic did affect consumer behaviour in respect of food, it did not change the fundamental trends that were evident before Covid-19 emerged. It did, however, amplify some of these pre-existing tendencies.

The report highlights four key developments, the first of which relates to health, with consumers able to choose more natural products and ingredients.

A second issue is ethics, with people taking more of an interest in carbon footprints, where their food comes from, and how it was processed and transported. They are likely to expect producers to provide clear evidence that steps have been taken to safeguard the environment, but without prices going up.

Another trend centres on satisfaction, with consumers concerned about enjoying their food and making new discoveries now more than ever.

Innovation in digital services in relation to food is a fourth trend, and one that creates new opportunities for products, and for providing consumers with information and advice.

The Kantar Insights Food 360 Study has been carried out in partnership with SIAL Paris every year since 2012.

The survey covers 11 countries or regions, namely France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Italy, India, the United States, China, the Middle East, Southeast Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia) and Israel, which is featured for the first time.