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Q&A: Health and safety will continue to drive grocery retail trends in 2021

Social distancing, touchless technology and a focus on transparency will continue to drive the way we live our lives and the way we shop in the coming year, according to Acosta’s Colin Stewart.

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Q&A: Health and safety will continue to drive grocery retail trends in 2021

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This post is sponsored by Acosta.

The coronavirus pandemic quickly accelerated demand for online grocery shopping and brought health and safety to the fore for grocery retailers. The coming year will see these trends continue, and create a need for unique offerings to draw shoppers back to stores, according to Colin Stewart, executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta. In this interview, Stewart outlines some of the top trends Acosta leaders predict will define 2021.

Colin Stewart, Acosta’s executive vice president of business intelligence

What are the main macro consumer trends you predict for 2021?

2020 was an unprecedented year for everything due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including shopping habits and behaviors. At this point, it appears that 2021 will be an extension of many of the changes we experienced in 2020, with health and safety of shoppers as the top priority for retailers. Social distancing, touch-free and transparency will continue to drive the way we live our lives, and the way we shop.

How has the pandemic altered consumer habits and preferences, and how will these changes play out in the new year?

Many people will likely continue to limit trips to stores or not visit stores at all. The acceleration of online grocery shopping will endure, with expectations of doubling market share by 2025. Retailers will work hard to ensure seamless integration between in-store and online shopping, leveraging smartphones to drive personalization, and dark stores to drive fulfillment efficiencies. The race to autonomous delivery will continue, driven in part by new retail partnerships and acquisitions.

What are your main category and brand predictions for 2021?

Those visiting the store will be seeking inspiration and a more enjoyable experience.  Shopping wasn’t fun in 2020, and shoppers will need unique offerings to draw them back into the store in 2021. They will particularly be looking for meal solutions, healthy and convenient food options, self-care solutions, and one-stop shopping.  Product availability will be of utmost importance after a year of empty shelves and purchase limits; however, shoppers will also be looking for better prices and deals after a year when retailers were forced to raise prices and postpone promotions.  

Here are all of Acosta’s top CPG predictions for 2021. You can download the list as an infographic here.

  1. Health, well-being and safety become table stakes
  • Store and customer safety/touch-free everything
  • Continued focus on self-care
  • Transparency
  • Plant-based everything
  • Virtual meetings become a new norm
  1. Technology activation accelerates
  • Increased role of e-commerce, seamless integration
  • Mobile-first
  • Smart home integration
  • Autonomous delivery
  • Auto-replenishment
  1. Retailers ramp up inspirational shopping experiences
  • In-store experience (delight vs chore)
  • Blurring of foodservice and retail
  • Self-serve reinvention
  • Personalization
  1. Increased focus on fulfillment efficiencies
  • Supply chain focus
  • Backroom, dark store fulfillment
  • Assortment recovery and rationalization
  • Price/promo correction and optimization
  1. Further consolidation and partnerships
  • Last mile delivery
  • In-store services
  • Foodservice
  • Retailer and CPG M&A

Colin Stewart is executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta. He joined Acosta in 1999 as part of its acquisition of the Kelley-Clarke organization and throughout his career, his work in category management and analytics has enabled Acosta to offer clients highly competitive, next-generation analytics capabilities. He has published numerous white papers on topics such as trade promotion, center store revitalization, frozen food trends, as well as initiated the shopper insights research publication called The Why? Behind the Buy, which has generated significant trade and national media attention for Acosta.