US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

Pandemic-Era Interest in Health Has Boosted the Plant-Based Foods Industry: New Developments

  • Beyond Meat introduced an improved version of its flagship product – Beyond Burger 3.0 – that  is due to appear in grocery stores in May and in restaurants in June. The company has continued to improve the taste and texture of its products with the goal of converting more meat-lovers, particularly once they reach price parity with beef (a goal they hope to achieve by 2024).
  • Beyond Meat is developing a chicken alternative product that will possibly launch this summer. The company had previously offered a plant-based chicken product through KFC but was not available through retail.
  • Epicurious announced that it stopped publishing new beef recipes in 2019 as part of an effort to encourage more sustainable cooking and that it now includes a wider variety of vegetarian, vegan, or simply plant-forward recipes.

The February-March edition of The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey highlighted pandemic-era interest in eating better as 37% of respondents said they were eating more healthy because of the pandemic. This trend, coupled with more consumers looking to eat in a more healthy way, willing to try new foods, and curious about or actively looking to live more sustainably, will continue to propel the plant-based food industry forward.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Packaging area, with titles such as Frozen Food Packaging, Vacuum Skin Packaging, and Meat, Poultry, & Seafood Packaging.

Further analysis in Food & Beverage research is also available from our sister publisher Packaged Facts, with titles such as Vegan, Vegetarian, & Flexitarian Consumers; Meat, Poultry & Seafood Alternatives: Outlook for Plant-Based & Cultured Cell-Based Consumer Products; Dairy & Egg Alternatives: Outlook for Plant-Based & Cell-Cultured Consumer Products; and Home Food Gardening: U.S. Market Trends & Opportunities. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage    

Packaging & Foodservices Operators: Quality, Costs, & Sustainability Remain Hurdles as Takeout Still Dominates

Operators of cafeterias and restaurants are both still grappling with the ideal carryout packaging more than a year into the pandemic-driven push toward takeout.

  • Initially, they used whatever containers they could get as demand spiked above supplies.
  • The next step was to optimize the package for food quality, retaining food temperature, minimizing spills and leaks, maintaining appearance, and even including tamper evident features.
  • However, the packaging still has to be cost effective, particularly for school cafeterias and low-priced restaurant options, both of which have limited room in their budgets.
  • Once the basics were satisfied, sustainability became a factor – can the packaging be compostable, reusable, or recyclable while remaining functional and within an affordable price?

The rising prices of paper and plastic packaging have made reusables more appealing because it takes fewer uses for the container to become a better deal in terms of costs. However, facilities that go with reusable options must have sufficient dishwashing capacity and be able to handle collection of used containers (or partner with a firm that can handle both tasks).

Reusables also require buy-in from consumers in terms of an upfront or ongoing membership or in terms of changing habits, as many consumers are used to simply tossing their to-go containers. Still, as many households saw a flood of disposable carryout containers fill their garbage bins over the last year, more consumers might be primed to make a few sustainability shifts in their lives. According to the February-March edition of The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey, 44% of respondents agreed that their household was putting more household waste out for garbage pickup since the start of the pandemic. What consumers notice, they are more likely to prioritize and address.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Packaging area, with titles such as Foodservice Single-Use Products, Global Foodservice, Global Foodservice Single-Use Products, and US Restaurant Reopening: COVID-19 Impact on Supplies. Additional analysis is available from the Food & Beverage research from our sister publisher Packaged Facts, including titles such as Food Carryout & Delivery. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Packaging    

Pandemic Grocery Gains Were Not Experienced Equally: Private Labels Took a Hit

Private label – also known as store-branded and generic – products have been seeing growth in recent years. Stores saw value in investing in their own brands and consumers were looking for value. The increasing introduction of higher-end private label items that moved beyond the basics also helped by boosting the average sale price of store-branded products.

However, these firms did not all see the huge pandemic retail grocery gains that the major food and beverage brands saw. Supply chain challenges and the cost-driven lack of flexibility built into their systems made it harder for them to respond to the sudden surges in demand that came as people shifted their food dollars from restaurants to retail.

In some cases, consumers sought traditional branded products to provide some level of certainty and comfort in uncertain times. However, more often than not, people bought what they could get. Because there were supply chain issues and low inventories, shoppers had to buy whichever oatmeal, peanut butter, frozen waffles, canned veggies, etc. that they could obtain. Even dedicated store brand value-based shoppers shifted to branded versions when no other option was available. This was one of the reasons why the average shopping basket price was up in 2020...sales of more branded products and fewer private label versions.

However, that trend is expected to shift back as private label suppliers increase their capacity shortages and improve their supply chains. Branded food product suppliers will need to offer unique options or other elements to retain value-driven shoppers who will shift back to price-based choices when the options are there.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Packaging area, with titles such as Frozen Food Packaging, Ice Cream & Frozen Dessert Packaging, Fresh Produce Packaging, Processed Food Pouches, Candy & Snack Food Pouches, Egg Cartons, Vacuum Skin Packaging, and Meat, Poultry, & Seafood Packaging. Further analysis in Food & Beverage research is also available from our sister publisher Packaged Facts, with titles such as Home Baking: US Market Trends & Opportunities, Food Market Outlook, Beverage Market Outlook, Meal Kits, Global Meat & Poultry Trends, and Global Breakfast Cereal. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Packaging    

What’s Behind the Ketchup Crisis? Carryout, Comfort Foods, & Hygiene Concerns

The Ketchup Crisis of 2021 is a thing.

But what’s behind it? Three basic trends are listed here and illustrated by data from the February–March edition of The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey:

  • Carryout. 51% of respondents say they used restaurant curbside pickup or carryout options more because of the pandemic, while 37% say they used food delivery services (e.g., restaurants’ own delivery, Grubhub, Uber Eats, DoorDash) more because of the pandemic. This has boosted the need for to-go condiment packets. Individual cups filled by the restaurant is an option, but one that increases the likelihood of a spill and a mess before it gets to the consumer.  
  • Comfort Foods. 35% of respondents note that they are eating more “comfort” foods because of the pandemic. This trend is highest among people aged 18-39, who are less likely to be concerned about the health impacts of these foods. To many US consumers, “comfort” eating means more French fries, hamburgers, and other foods frequently dressed with ketchup.
  • Hygiene Concerns. 76% still think that the coronavirus pandemic is a health threat to them, personally, while 84% think it’s a health threat to their family and friends. Those who express highest levels of concern are most likely to stay away from community condiments (even where they are available, given local health department restrictions on their use in many areas) and prefer single-use packets as more hygienic options.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Packaging area, including Pouches, Flat Pouches: Side Seal & Pillow, US Restaurant Reopening: COVID-19 Impact on Supplies, Global Foodservice Single-Use Products, and Foodservice Single-Use Products; and Packaged Facts reports such as Food Carryout & Delivery and Food Carryout & Delivery: Special COVID-19 Consumer Insights. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Packaging    

Pandemic-Era Home Cooking: Consumers Are Searching for Convenience & Ways To Stretch Food Budget; Some Answers Lie in Packaging

As 76% of respondents to The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey (conducted February – March 2021) noted, people are still less likely to be eating in a restaurant because of the coronavirus pandemic. That means that we are still mostly cooking at home. After a year of doing more home cooking than normal, a lot of consumers are looking for short cuts…anything that makes preparing a meal, especially if it is a new food option, easier.

Similarly, the pandemic era also has changed how we think about food waste. For instance, 59% of respondents to the same survey noted that they were more conscious of not wasting food because of the coronavirus pandemic. Factors include:

  • Consumers seeing their budgets tighten and wanting to watch their food spending – 38% of respondents to this recent survey noted that they still have reduced work hours (voluntarily or involuntarily) and 56% of respondents noted that they were still cutting back on spending because of the pandemic.
  • Consumers wanting to minimize trips to the stores – 54% of respondents on this recent survey noted they were still spending less time shopping in brick-and-mortar stores because of the pandemic.

This presents opportunities for packaged food companies and for packaging companies, including:

  • Convenient preparation: 54% of respondents to the November – December edition of the survey indicated that microwave cook-in packaging was a high or medium priority when shopping for food. Microwaveable pouches allow home cooks to quickly add elements such as rice, quinoa, pasta, beans, and tuna to a dish as an ingredient or as a standalone part of a meal.
  • Food protection: 76% of respondents to the November – December edition of the survey indicated that packaging that extends shelf life was a high or medium priority when shopping for food. Such packaging not only allows customers to stretch their food budget by limiting waste, but it also allows food products to travel in e-commerce channels which have become increasingly popular during the pandemic.  

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including the packaging category with titles such as Pouches and Frozen Food Packaging. Related food and beverage industry analysis from our sister publisher, Packaged Facts, include Home Baking: US Market Trends & Opportunities, US Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking, Grocery Shopping & Food Trends in the Age of Coronavirus, Global Food E-Commerce, and Online Grocery in the US. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Packaging