TREND REPORT 2021: Adapting to the new normal 

TREND REPORT 2021: Adapting to the new normal 

United Fresh ( has over 28 years’ experience supporting and promoting the New Zealand fresh produce industry, working with the entire value chain, from seed producer and grower to consumer, providing leadership on panproduce issues. 

This is their third trend report for New Zealand. 

There is no question that the world has changed immensely in the space of just 12 months. The unprecedented scale of the COVID-19 pandemic has touched the lives of every New Zealander and the implications of the national lockdown will be felt for years to come.

In the nation’s grocery aisles, there has been a significant shift in consumer behaviour which has shaped our pick of the top trends to watch for in 2021.

The ultimate health kick

Unsurprisingly, health and well-being top the list of concerns for shoppers across the country. Foods that boost immunity and those that are viewed as nourishing the body and the mind are expected to be the most sought-after as we re-prioritise health as our number one goal.

Over 20% of shoppers are actively seeking out immunity-boosting food and beverage options; fresh fruit and vegetables, with their natural ‘health halo’, are top of the list. New additives such as collagen and whey protein are likely to appear more frequently as well.

Food hygiene is also an emerging trend as shoppers express concern about the safety of the items in their trolley.

The big shop is back

For several years now the trend towards shopping more often for smaller amounts has been number one on the list of consumer behaviour changes. COVID-19 has stopped that in its tracks with nearly 20% of Kiwis choosing to return to the ‘big shop’. No more regular top-ups, no shopping across multiple stores, we’ve continued with the lockdown rules of visiting the supermarket only when we need to. In fact, research by Foodstuffs shows Kiwis are making around 50% fewer visits to stores each week despite our lack of community transmission. 

Online and ongoing

In 2019, less than 10% of Kiwis shopped for groceries online. Thanks to COVID-19 and a nationwide lockdown, those numbers have surged to nearly 30%. Shoppers that had never tried an online weekly shop have become converts and such a rapid increase has led to significant changes for the grocery trade.

Based on overseas examples, those numbers are set to increase even more with online grocery shopping up 25% in the US and 40% in Asia. The online trend is likely to see a reduction in the number of stores, perhaps as many as half closing and many being repurposed into ‘dark stores’, operating as a warehouse for either click and collect grocery shoppers or home delivery services.

Online shopping trends have also enabled wholesalers to enter the retail landscape offering ‘farm to door’ delivery services. Ordering a box of apples direct from the orchard enables shoppers to connect directly with the grower.

Love local

The resurgence of a ‘Buy NZ Made’ ethos has been one of the pleasant results of the pandemic. Kiwis quickly discovered the importance of locally grown food as bags of flour disappeared off our shelves at record speeds. The unreliability of imports, growing costs and limited capacity have driven shoppers to seek out local alternatives. 

Buying local means a meaningful connection with the producers of our food, a reassuring development of trust in uncertain times. Transparency of supply is a growing trend worldwide with as many as 60% of shoppers seeking greater knowledge about where their food is sourced from.

It’s the little things

As is often the case in troubling times, shoppers are turning to small indulgences with their weekly shop. The trend towards buying one or two high quality ‘treats’ looks set to be a feature of 2021.

Known as ‘the lipstick effect’, in an economic downturn shoppers turn to affordable pleasures rather than more costly luxury items. Buying the best quality avocado or treating the kids to a punnet of fresh strawberries works well to boost morale, even when the purse strings are tight. With around 40% of Kiwi families feeling the financial effects of COVID-19, expect to see this trend continue well past 2021.

Home sweet home

One would think we’d had enough of our homes after lockdown, but the trend is clear, Kiwis are staying in, cooking from scratch and ordering takeaways rather than dining out.

Nearly 75% of New Zealanders have indicated that they’re eating out less than they did before COVID-19, with financial constraints and a desire to avoid crowds seeing us prefer a quiet night in and a gourmet home-cooked meal over outsourced entertainment.

As this trend continues, expect to see more pre-cut fresh produce on offer as we look to streamline our cooking and a wider variety of pre-prepared heat and eat meals in the supermarket chiller to meet the demand for healthy, convenient and fresh solutions for dinnertime. Specific diets such as Keto and Paleo will also be a feature of these supermarket offerings, catering to the growing interest in alternative eating patterns.

Good guts

Alongside the drive for immunity, the health trend for 2021 is the focus on the gut microbiome. The trillions of bacteria, fungi and viruses that naturally exist in the large intestine collectively form your microbiome and its vital role in overall health is becoming increasingly understood.

While products such as Kombucha and fermented vegetables have been slowly growing in popularity, expect to see an upswing in offerings that cater to a healthy microbiome, particularly in the snacking category.

The brand connection

Consumers in 2021 will be increasingly critical of the brands that they support. Long term loyalty is increasingly important in the marketplace as is the perception of a brand’s performance during the pandemic.

In the supermarket aisle, home brands are growing rapidly – as much as three times faster than other brands in some categories. Building trust will be just as essential for traditional brands as it will for new brands entering the market.

Post lockdown, most retailers have moved away from paper-based marketing with new digital technology offerings such as digital mailers tied to store cards. This advancement provides a tailored approach enabling retailers to target individual consumers based on their buying behaviour and saves an extraordinary 60 tonnes of paper each week.

Hunger hurts us all

The United Nations has sounded the alarm that 2021 will be far worse for vulnerable whānau than 2020. Food insecurity is a growing problem for Kiwis, made worse by scarcity and supply chain issues due to COVID-19.

Despite our local growers producing some of the world’s best produce, getting much-needed quality fruit and vegetables to those struggling financially has been an issue. Programmes such as Fruit in Schools will be even more important in 2021 as we work to feed every one of our team of 5 million.

The planet problem

While our focus on 2020 shifted to saving people across the globe, 2021 will see us redirect energy towards saving the planet. Climate change has taken a backseat to COVID-19 but its effects have not gone away and the need to address issues of sustainability are just as pressing.

Millennials and Gen Z are driving the move to sustainable practices with over 80% of all shoppers changing their purchase preferences based on the social responsibility, inclusiveness, or environmental impact shown by a brand.

Sustainable and regenerative agriculture is the gold standard that New Zealand growers are working towards, a conservation and rehabilitation approach to farming which focuses on the health of the soil, biodiversity, effective water use and enhancing the natural ecosystem.  

Consumers will continue to seek out food and beverages with an organic pedigree, with winegrowers in particular likely to see significant growth throughout 2021 for wines classified as organic or natural.


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