5 Food and Beverage Trends in Europe During COVID-19

happy family having breakfast together

With Europe slowly emerging into a new normal, we look at the region’s evolving food and beverage trends for 2020

Life has changed beyond recognition in Europe since the COVID-19 crisis began, with a socio-economic impact that will persist in the aftermath of the pandemic. Travel is curtailed, unemployment is on the rise and the public will be practising social distancing well beyond lockdown.

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With consumer behaviour adapting rapidly in response, our Europe and Russia COVID-19 taskforce is working to understand the implications for foodservice and retail channels, now and in the future. Using the data we have gathered, here’s a look at the current state of food and beverage in Europe, plus new consumer insights and guidance for members of Europe’s food and beverage industry as they work to make on-trend products in 2020 and beyond.

The food and beverage business in Europe during COVID-19

Most European countries have experienced varying levels of lockdown or self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is affecting food and beverage consumption and trends. In regions where the outbreak was more severe and widespread, such as parts of Italy, restaurants were not permitted to deliver food. In countries including Greece, France and Italy, the public had to apply for permits to carry out their grocery shopping.

Still, eating is “essential” in every sense of the word. With consumers limiting their shopping excursions, retailers are now considered places to satisfy food, beverage and general lifestyle needs. As a result, retail grocery stores are showing strong year-on-year performance across multiple food and beverage categories in Europe.

Initially, when restrictions began in March, consumers began ‘panic buying’ and stockpiling items, with a focus on shelf stable products. This eased as the weeks continued, with new trends such as increased sales of alcohol and coffee emerging, due in part to the widespread closure of foodservice channels. Fresh meat, frozen meat and canned meat also saw significant sales increases.

Many retailers hired additional staff to meet growing demand for product, supporting their local communities and keeping the future in focus with new product development programmes continuing virtually.

In foodservice, where revenues have fallen by up to 95%, according to data collected by our COVID-19 taskforce, rapid adaption has been essential to survive. New operating models are emerging with many outlets supplying straight to retail or direct to consumer.

In foodservice, where revenues have fallen dramatically, rapid adaption has been essential to survival with new operating models emerging.woman ordering food online

In European countries where prepared food deliveries were permitted, such as the UK and Ireland, many foodservice outlets scaled up home delivery and contactless transactions. Even higher-end restaurants are embracing digital in new and creative ways to stay relevant and viable. With a lot of uncertainty about the ‘bounce back’ from COVID-19, including new ways of operating in a time of social distancing, these responses make clear foodservice outlets will need to continue to be innovative to survive.

New consumer insights on Europe’s food and beverage trends for 2020

As consumers adjust to this ‘new normal’, we see their food and beverage purchasing behaviours being influenced by the below trends.

Trend 1: A focus on ‘self-protection’
From immunity-boosting products to comfort food, consumers are looking for ways to protect their bodies and minds during this time.

According to Google and Tastewise, there has been a recent rise in online search volume for vitamin C, D, zinc, elderberry, rosemary. A 2019 survey by Kerry ConsumerFirst found that some 30% of European consumers claimed to change their diets to help their immune system, so this trend has been at play since before COVID-19. However this has accelerated according to internet searches for ‘food’ and ‘immune system’, which rose 670% globally in the first 2 weeks of March, according to Google Trends data.

Traditionally, products with immunity claims are targeted at vulnerable groups such as aging populations, rather than mainstream consumers, so a gap remains in targeting the wider population. Probiotics can also play a role here, and a strong health message can be provided by combining them with other immunity-boosting ingredients.

Meanwhile, consumers are using food to self-medicate their moods, with increased sales of comfort foods such as confectionery and ice-cream. Anxiety was already an issue for many young people before this crisis, so there is potential for growth in products containing ingredients perceived to improve mood in the medium- and long-term.

Trend 2: A new relationship with cooking and drinking
Over 50% of European consumers are now cooking more at home and attempting new cuisines and recipes, according to Kerry ConsumerFirst data. Sales of flour and yeast are up and preserves and spreads have become top performers as the popularity of home baking and scratch cooking rise. Some bakeries and pizzerias are delivering at home pizza kits to make with the family.

Over 50% of European consumers are now cooking more at home and attempting new cuisines and recipes, according to Kerry ConsumerFirst data.father and son cooking together

To support this new way of living and learning, chefs, social media influencers and restaurants are providing more recipes online and tutorials via platforms such as Instagram Live.

With 12% of European consumers saying they are drinking more alcohol, per GlobalData, online social entertainment, particularly among younger groups, has become the norm. ‘Quarantini boxes’, which include ingredients for high-end cocktails and are sold by mixologists and accompanied by tutorials on Facebook Live, have been selling out, while live wine tasting events are also being explored.

Trend 3: Snackification is on the rise
Consumers turn to snacks for comfort, but the nature of snacking has shifted from a quick fix on the go to an at-home occasion. Prior to COVID-19, shared snacking fuelled a number of markets. A survey by Mondelez found that 71% of adults say snacking gives them time to connect with themselves and 53% look forward to snacks more than meals.

Due to the current environment, consumers are looking for snack products that are functional, such as from an immunity perspective, and even from snacks that provide relaxation and mental benefits. For those who are looking for a treat, snacks that prompt a sense of nostalgia seem to be delighting consumers. Creating a new twist on old favourites could be an option for some manufacturers.

Trend 4: Importance of e-commerce
Digital technology has been embraced by all sectors of society, from staying in touch with loved ones to ordering food online. This trend is set to grow and strengthen, with foodservice outlets pivoting to online delivery and engaging with consumers via mediums such as Instagram and carrying out cook-alongs on Facebook Live and Zoom.

In France, Mintel data shows that 23% of French consumers have increased the amount of shopping they do online as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, and this trend has similarly increased elsewhere in Europe across all age groups.

The digital shift has also entered the inner workings of the food industry. Brands are now carrying out new product development virtually, and this will continue as travel restrictions remain in place. In the absence of meeting clients and suppliers face-to-face, businesses will need to be able to work digitally for the foreseeable future.

Trend 5: Increased appetite for transparency and sustainability
A transparent food and beverage supply chain was important to consumers before COVID-19, and that is only set to continue. People are likely to be more invested in food safety and where their food comes from, with consumers already more interested in clean labels.

One potential effect of this can be seen in the sales of plant-based products, which have grown in recent weeks, possibly mirroring a response seen in China, where consumers are more wary of animal products, which many people believe to be the origin of COVID-19. Before COVID-19, 41% of UK processed meat eaters said health concerns led them to reduce consumption, according to Mintel.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is having a positive impact on the environment due to a fall in industrial activity and driving, which is shining a light on how our lifestyles impact planet. Some 45% of European consumers claim ethical production and sustainable sourcing are important to them, according to Kerry research, so we can expect that trend to grow in the post-COVID-19 world.

Tomorrow begins Today at Kerry. Our insight-led innovation is designed to help you succeed faster. Visit our European website to find out more about partnering on future projects. To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting the food and beverage industry, including changes in consumer preferences and purchasing behaviors, visit Kerry’s COVID-19 resource page.

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