Looking Back in 2020: Food & Drink
23 : 12 : 20

In 2020, the food and drink sector explored flavour and function, digital dining and interactive food experiences, writes creative researcher Savannah Scott.

The Trend: Total Tastes

Behave, US Behave, US

In this year's food and drink macrotrend, Total Tastes, we examined why consumers are seeking out foods for the functions they offer as well as the nutrition and pleasure they provide.

In response, food and drink brands are breaking out of their traditional confines, elevating everyday choices of eating and drinking as drivers of meaningful lifestyles. As we move into 2021, we can anticipate demand for food and drink that are designed to elevate mood, sustain energy and reduce stress will grow. Soon, as the overall functionality of food will become more important in consumer choices, holistic innovations and approaches will be interwoven throughout the food value chain.

‘We are in the middle of a new era of mindful eating, expanding our understanding of health as we become more aware of the connected relationship between food and drinks and how they affect our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing,’ explains Hamish Campbell, vice-president and executive creative director at branding agency Pearlfisher.

The Big Idea: Media Kitchens

Bubble, New York Bubble, New York

In March we explored the emergence of Media Kitchens, as delivery companies, media platforms and social apps launch virtual restaurants that combine food with entertainment.

The rise of streaming services such as Netflix have created new opportunities for delivery brands to transform viewers’ favourite tv shows into real-life dining experiences. These not only appeal to the appetites of a show’s existing fan base, but also provide a novel and immersive way to engage with the booming entertainment industry.

An example is a Breaking Bad-inspired virtual restaurant, Los Pollos Hermanos, launched by Uber Eats and Sony Pictures Consumer Products. With no physical bricks-and-mortar location, fans instead use Uber Eats or Postmates to order dishes.

‘For the longest time, I’ve harboured the idea of a real-life Los Pollos Hermanos where Breaking Bad fans could savour Gustavo Fring’s chicken,’ explains Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. ‘Little did I realise this could be accomplished without building an actual bricks-and-mortar restaurant… Smartphones actually are good for something.’

The Campaign: Tony’s Chocolonely’s Happy Activism

Tony's Chocolonely Unfair Fair by HERC, Amsterdam

In September, chocolate brand Tony’s Chocolonely showed how brand campaigns can draw attention to the exploitation of people in the cocoa industry through colourful and entertaining manifesto’s.

Tapping into the emergence of graphic activism, the short film by agency Herc reinforced the brand's mission to end child slavery on cocoa plantations. By taking inspiration from the bright packaging of the Tony's brand, the Unfair/Fair campaign vibrantly visualises its motto: ‘Crazy about chocolate, serious about people’.

The ad examined the negative 'today' and positive 'future' for the cocoa industry in a way that diverges from most activism-led campaigns. ‘It’s fantastic, especially in this day and age, to be able to fully apply our approach to a happy activist, a cheerful brand that’s doing something good for the world,’ says Rogier de Bruin, co-founder and creative director at Herc.

The Interview: Brightseed on mapping the dark matter of nutrition

Brightseed, San Francisco Brightseed, San Francisco

In late summer we spoke to Emma Cooper-Mullin, director of brand marketing at biotech start-up Brightseed, which is delving into the unmapped world of phytonutrients and their power to revolutionise diets.

The company is mapping the tiny molecules found inside plants that are anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective or heart-protective. ‘We’re attempting to understand the intersection of plant and human biology at the molecular or cellular level, and to truly understand at the highest resolution possible what happens in our bodies when we ingest plants and how those plants can really support health and wellness holistically,’ Cooper-Mullin explains.

Amid the rise of Total Tastes, she notes: ‘If you want to turn food into medicine and advance nutrition in a meaningful way, you have to look at the tiny molecules inside plants that have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, neuro-protective or heart-protective properties.'

Emphasising the power of potential partnerships between Brightseed, major food firms and supplement companies to unlock the benefits of plant-based ingredients, Cooper-Mullin adds: ‘We’ve only mapped 1% of phytonutrients on earth. So, the first step in making food into medicine is understanding the other 99%.'

The Space: Whole Foods opens its first ghost supermarket

Online-only store by Amazon and Whole Foods Market, New York Online-only store by Amazon and Whole Foods Market, New York
Online-only store by Amazon and Whole Foods Market, New York Online-only store by Amazon and Whole Foods Market, New York
Online Only Store by Amazon and Whole Foods Market, New York Online Only Store by Amazon and Whole Foods Market, New York

While brand and consumers pivoted to digital-first dining and delivery experiences in 2020, a rise in technological and augmented advancements allowed food and drink retail spaces to adapt to a new model of grocery shopping.

In the US, Whole Foods Market this year opened its first ghost supermarket at Brooklyn's Industry City campus to fulfil local grocery delivery orders, marking the first permanent online-only store. Closed to walk-in visitors, it appeals to the growing demand for online grocery shopping.

The facility, created by Amazon and Whole Foods Market, is designed to better serve the nearby community through increased efficiency, dedicated staff teams and exclusive discounts. ‘This new delivery-only retail model will allow Whole Foods Market to serve even more customers and continue to meet the growing demand for grocery delivery,’ Amazon wrote in an announcement about the store opening.

Download our Future Forecast 2021 report

Now that you know what shaped 2020, discover what’s on the horizon. Download our Future Forecast 2021 report comprising 50 new behavioural patterns across 10 key consumer sectors, expert opinion pieces and interviews with global innovators.

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