COVID’s impact going forward

Fewer trips to the store. Stocking the pantry with foods that keep longer. Freezing larger quantities for future use.

COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior in profound ways. And many of those changes will persist well into 2021, said Kathy Sargent, director of global market strategy for Lenexa, Kan.-based Corbion.

In addition to those listed above, Sargent expects packaging to become sturdier and more tamper-evident, soothing consumers’ fears about contamination. Also on the packaging front, look for bakeries to feature more individually-packed artisan breads and grab-and-go items.

Retailers should also expect continued heavy use of online shopping and e-commerce.

“Increased fear of contracting COVID-19 will continue to affect not just what consumers buy, but how they make purchases,” Sargent said.

Two other trends that took root during the pandemic and will likely stick around in 2021, she said, are growth in center-store sales of prepackaged baked goods from brands consumers know and trust; and sales of value items, a necessity for many given the financial toll of COVID.

The pandemic has also spurred consumers to seek out baked goods that support their immune health and offer perceived wellness benefits, Sargent said. Those include products with vitamin fortification, seeds, grains and fruit inclusions.

Opportunities for manufacturers

In 2021, baked goods manufacturers should focus on freshness and food security, communicating their ability to maintain consistent levels of supply, Sargent said.

And with health and wellness top of mind, foods that provide immune health benefits will be key for health-minded shoppers, she added. Manufacturers will also need to realize that clean-label is evolving and to offer more functional foods and more affordable foods.

That’s not all that should be on suppliers’ 2021 to-do lists.

“Since e-commerce has become more prevalent, they’ll also need to ensure they are effectively communicating product information and ensure their items are accessible via online shopping platforms,” Sargent said.

Finally, messaging will play an even greater role in communicating the benefits of manufacturers’ products. With more consumers shopping online, ensuring that baked goods telegraph traits like freshness, value and quality will be vital.

To help its clients achieve these and other goals, Corbion has invested heavily in solutions that can help bakers navigate the challenges of the pandemic, Sargent said.

Product preservation, for instance, is more important than ever, and Corbion is helping manufacturers achieve extended shelf life through solutions that emphasize the ingenuity of nature’s own solutions, those that rely on fermentation and more natural methods of preservation.