By: Margaret Core, Vice President, Marketing, FMI
An English proverb describes typical March weather: If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb. Since March 2021 marks a year since the COVID-19 pandemic onset, we may feel like that lamb never showed up.
But in many ways, March 2021 is different. Our understanding of the virus is greater, the vaccine roll-out is underway and we are headed to post-pandemic planning that includes business implementations for the food industry and new consumer behaviors with meals at home.
Marching Innovation to the Grocery Shelf
During all of this, we have seen that the consumer desire for food product innovation to support healthier eating has never left. FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker, highlighted that 36% of shoppers report healthier eating habits compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, 36% are interested in finding something interesting to eat.
At the recent FMI Midwinter Executive Conference, 35 brands were showcased in a special event, FMI Pop-up, which now all FMI.org visitors can explore. The brands reflect a variety of innovations and product attributes that support consumer interest in healthy ingredients, ethnic cuisines and interesting snacks and beverages. The selection includes Keto, Paleo and gluten-free items, sparkling tonics and mixers, seafood, plant-based cheese and noodles, ready-to-eat meals and sweat treats.
One of the FMI Pop-up brands, Zazi Natural Foods, focuses on natural foods and vegan oils, taking a new twist on an ancient food: clarified butter with Medjool dates in vanilla spice ghee, a product that has all-natural ingredients and no added sugar. The label follows a trend of a short ingredient list with recognizable ingredients. It is compatible with vegetarian and Paleo diets and the coconut oil version is compatible with vegan diets. Hear more from Zazi Natural Foods in their Pop-up video.
Meeting the Consumers Interests in Small Brand Innovation
Now more than ever, consumers want access to products that meet their health and wellness focus, dietary needs, taste preferences and social interests. In her recent Food Dive article, “How food innovation has continued during the pandemic,“ Megan Poinski highlights that despite challenges, innovation is forging ahead, funding is still flowing and we will still see plant-based, Keto, kombucha, organic, energy drinks, hard seltzer, allergy-friendly and other categories move from fringe specialties with a few products to huge categories.
We are pleased to uplift the food innovation and help brands grow on shelf and retailers meet the consumers interests. We encourage the FMI community to start conversations and explore these brands in the FMI Pop-up.