We analyzed over 90 million online conversations to explore current culinary trends, consumer’s eating habits, and insights around the retail side of the world of food.
Previously we've explored how consumers were talking about food online and what trends were emerging, as well as how the Covid-19 pandemic was impacting our eating habits.
Now we’re going to update the insights and look at which trends will be leading in 2022.
Let’s get into it.
How are we talking about food?
In this report, we analyze online conversations around food that are happening on Twitter, Instagram, blogs, forums, and Reddit.
Let’s take a look at the most used hashtags around the food topic.
Now, what about emojis? Let's explore the most mentioned food emojis within conversations about food.
Convenience during the Covid-19 pandemic
Online grocery shopping
When the first Covid-19 measures were introduced, people’s grocery shopping behavior shifted. Some consumers started to buy their groceries online, often because they didn’t want to leave their house due to fear of the virus or chaos at their local supermarkets.
Between March and April 2020, conversations around online grocery shopping increased rapidly. They peaked on March 23, but quickly leveled off after. However, it seems that some consumers will continue to use this service in 2021. A study found that 90% of online grocery shoppers from the UK will continue to shop online, and while conversation has died down it’s still higher than it was pre-pandemic.
Since online shopping continues to be so popular, we want to explore what consumers are saying about online grocery shopping. The mentions that make up the chart above are packed with insight on what customers are looking for in the service, and the possible issues they may be facing.
Half of the conversations around online grocery delivery services concern problems. These include all kinds of issues from missing products within orders to dirty bags.
Other problems, meanwhile, are discussed with some humor. Some consumers have difficulties estimating the size of the products they order, which results in them receiving either an oversized or a mini product.
While this often leads to funny results, online food retailers may want to improve product signposting, or perhaps provide size guides that are easy to glance at to see how big that jar of pickles really is.
Besides general issues, consumers also talk about the price of the service, especially when delivery fees apply, and question if the service is really worth the money.
We also found mentions where consumers talk about reliability, fast delivery, and the range of products on offer from food retailers.
Another popular option for consumers buying groceries is cooking boxes. These food boxes contain a set of food products carefully measured for a specific meal to be prepared by the consumer. As with the online grocery services, there has also been an upward trend since the pandemic.
We looked at different food box services within conversations where people talked about personally being subscribed and found the most mentions for HelloFresh, Blue Apron, Home Chef, Sun Basket, and Freshly.
While the focus is primarily on the product itself, what do consumers say about the packaging?
While convenience is great, it is not uncommon for it to come with disadvantages. For example, environmentally conscious consumers are likely to complain about the packaging of products if there’s too much plastic used.
Before we take a look at trending foods, let's see what beverages consumers have been mentioning.
Coffee is by far the most frequently mentioned beverage in online conversations. Here, consumers often mention iced coffee, black coffee, and espressos.
When it comes to other types of beverages, consumers also talk about tea, juice, smoothies, and bubble tea.
In the beginning of the pandemic, there was an increase in mentions of alcoholic beverages.
With more time spent at home and the closure of bars and restaurants, consumers started to prepare their own alcoholic beverages. In the following chart, we are looking at the most mentioned cocktails online.
Data reveals that Margaritas are the most popular cocktail, followed by Martinis, Mimosas and Bloody Marys.
The vegan diet is once again on top of online conversations. Between January and September 2021, we found nearly 3 million mentions of this diet.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that many people are following it. More likely, the data reflects a trend that many consumers are exploring – whether that be trying new vegan products or recipes, or going vegan for a month (eg in January, known as Veganuary).
Also frequently mentioned are the vegetarian, gluten-free, and ketogenic diet.
With the growing trend towards the vegan diet, we took a look at which meat substitutes are discussed most.
Tofu remains a popular alternative when it comes to meat substitutes, followed by tempeh, seitan, soy based substitutes, and mushrooms and fungi.
These alternatives can be processed into different types of meat products. Therefore, in the next chart, we will look at which of these products appear most frequently in meat-alternative conversations.
The data reveals that burgers are being discussed the most with 41%, closely followed by chicken products such as chicken nuggets (39%), sausages (19%) and various cold cuts (19%).
The Beyond Meat burger is one of the most famous beef burger alternatives. In the following chart, we are exploring the topics that are discussed most around the burger.
The taste of the burger patty dominates the conversation with 81% of the mentions, followed by the cost (10%), texture (6%), and ethics (3%).
Finally for this section, we want to explore the mentions around plant-based milk products. These are not only popular among vegans, but also with consumers who are lactose intolerant or prefer the taste to conventional dairy products.
Online mentions show that almond milk (113k mentions), oat milk (59k mentions), and soy milk (24k mentions) are the most popular alternatives to conventional dairy products.
What are the trendiest foods of 2021?
As bowls can be prepared in many different ways, both sweet and savoury, it is not surprising that they are very popular item in online conversations around food this year (1.1 million). When we break down the data, we see many mentions for salad, smoothie / acai, and poke bowls.
Other popular trendy foods are nut butters, smoothies, porridge, and fermented foods (like kimchi, sauerkraut, or kombucha drinks). With the health benefits of these items well publicized, the data shows a tendency towards especially healthy meals.
Let’s go further and look at other particularly healthy foods – the so-called superfoods.
Superfoods are foods that are said to be particularly rich in vitamins and minerals. In the following chart we take a look at those getting the most mentions online.
For the second year in a row, avocados and blueberries are once again the most popular superfoods. Together, they account for almost half of the superfood conversation we studied.
When consumers speak about avocados, they often mention them with salads, tacos, toast, or bread. When it comes to blueberries, different baked goods and fruit bowls are mentioned.
Ginger and kale are also frequently mentioned in the conversations around superfoods.
Baked goods, especially bread, became very popular once the pandemic hit. Many consumers attempted baking bread and some even made their own sourdough. However, the mentions have since leveled off again. It’s interesting to see how this trend has given way to the healthier trends we’re seeing in this year’s report.
Since the beginning, the pandemic has left its impact on consumers' eating habits. While convenience has become a big trend, conversations around healthy foods continue to grow and are unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
Interest in healthy and plant-based eating is growing and is not only exclusive to vegans. And consumers do not only want the nutritional value of the food to be right, but also the ecological footprint when it comes to packaging, for example.To stay ahead of the competition, CPG and retail brands have to understand the needs of their consumers and adapt to them. This applies to services, such as the online grocery delivery or food boxes, but also the food itself.