Welcome to 2021 – we’re eating, shopping and purchasing differently than 12 months ago. And while the vaccine brings hope that routines will soon return, has the pandemic permanently reshaped our food experiences?

Below, we outline a few changes that we predict to stick.

A home-kitchen renaissance: The Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council found 85 percent of consumers changed their eating habits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The early days of the pandemic had us searching for comfort. We baked, cooked at home and crafted fancy beverages in our kitchens. (Remember the dalgona coffee?) Then, as cooking fatigue set indelivery orders significantly grew.

Nevertheless, experts suggest Americans will continue to cook at home more often than pre-pandemic levels even as dining out rises again. Is pasta the new sourdough bread?

Retail re-imagined: Prior to the pandemic, brick-and-mortar retail struggled as a growing number of consumers turned to online shopping. Although the pandemic accelerated consumers’ transition to e-commerce, in-store grocery shopping is vying for a comeback.

As retailers strive to meet continued consumer demand to maintain high levels of safety and hygiene, they’re investing in improved technology offerings. You’ll likely see expanded self-checkout offerings and other forms of contactless payment. And, expect a rise in “everything stores,” like Target and Walmart, where people can shop for all their needs at once without making multiple trips.

What you won’t see – one-way aisles.

Brand loyalty challenged: Research from McKinsey found 46 percent of Americans tried a new brand or made purchases with a new retailer during the shutdown.

And while brand loyalty is typically challenged during economic recessions, many consumers were forced to swap brands in 2020 if retailers were out of stock. Otherwise, consumers switched to brands or retailers offering the best price or value.

Regardless of the reason, the shakeup means brands have a rare chance to transform once-elusive consumers to new loyalists.

For more on our post-pandemic predictions, check out the series, “COVID-19’s Wake-Up Call: Food System Realities Reimagined.”

This Food Thoughts article was originally published by FoodMinds, a division of Padilla.

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