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Kroger Unveils 2020’s Top Trends and What to Expect in 2021

Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Kroger Unveils 2020’s Top Trends and What to Expect in 2021
Kroger predicts that consumers in 2021 will aspire to eat more healthy foods and explore more unique tastes and flavors.

Better-for-you beverages and comfort-food favorites like cheese topped the Kroger Co.'s Top 10 Trending Foods of 2020 list, which was based on year-over-year sales growth across its business.

The trending foods and beverages of 2020 were:

  1. Zero-Calorie Soft Drinks
  2. Four-Cheese Mexican Blend Shredded Cheese
  3. Flavored Potato Chips (Hot & Spicy, Regional Flavors, and Meal-Inspired Varieties)
  4. Sauvignon Blanc Wine
  5. Heavy Whipping Cream
  6. Fresh Burger Patties
  7. Artisan Breads and Restaurant-Style Buns
  8. Bulk Individual Coffee Pods (96-Count)
  9. Party-Size Bags of Variety Chocolate
  10. Black Forest Ham

"The most-popular foods and beverages of 2020 underscore how our customers not only adapted to the challenges of this unique year, but embraced cooking and eating at home as part of their new routine," said Stuart Aitken, Kroger's chief merchant. "As many of our customers transitioned to working from home and virtual schoolrooms this year, coffee, fresh deli meat and artisan bread emerged as go-to staples for elevated breakfast and lunch routines, while zero-calorie soft drinks, unique potato chip flavors, wine and chocolate stood out as comfort-food favorites. Fresh ground beef, premium buns and shredded cheese also rose in popularity as our customers recreated their favorite restaurant-style burgers at home."

In addition to looking back at the trending grocery purchases of 2020, Kroger unveiled its top seven food trend predictions for 2021. The retailer’s culinary experiences team and Our Brands product developers, chefs and innovators predict that consumers will aspire to eat more healthy foods and explore more unique tastes and flavors.

Kroger's Top Seven Food Trend Predictions for 2021 include:

1. Futureproof Foods

From immune defense to mood management, consumers are increasingly looking for flavor and functionality in their favorite foods and beverages, especially as the nation continues to navigate a public health crisis. As "futureproofing" and "biohacking" trends continue to accelerate in 2021, more foods with added benefits to support immune health, gut and brain health, energy levels, and stress management will make their appearance on store shelves.

2. Seeking Comfort

Easy-to-prepare comfort foods are on the rise as consumers look to balance convenience and quick preparation times with flavorful meal options.

Kroger is helping making the at-home cooking experience more convenient for consumers with its new Chefbot — a first-of-its-kind artificial-intelligence Twitter tool that offers personalized recipes based on the ingredients that a consumer already has on hand at home.

Consumers are also increasingly turning to home baking as a mood booster and mental escape to help cope with the added stress many faced in 2020.

3. Ketotarian Foods

According to Instacart's "New Year, New Cart" 2021 Grocery Trends Report, keto appears to be one of America's favorite diets, with 28% of those who have tried a diet this year saying that they opted for a keto regime. Within the Instacart marketplace, Instacart saw a 72% increase in year-over-year sales of products with "keto" in their names. 

However, while high-protein eating styles like keto have skyrocketed in popularity, they have created a conundrum for consumers who want to explore the trend but find it difficult to balance the low-carb, high-fat dietary guidelines with a desire to eat more vegetables and plant-based foods. Enter the "ketotarian" diet: a plant-based spin on traditional keto guidelines — so no meat. Kroger predicts a growing selection of these plant-based, high-protein foods will hit grocery shelves in the year ahead. 

4. Global Flavors and Restaurant Favorites Hit Home

According to 84.51°, Kroger's data and analytics subsidiary, more than 60% of Kroger shoppers are spending more time cooking at home. This trend will only accelerate in 2021, as consumers spice up their weekly routines by experimenting with global flavors and recipes that recreate their favorite travel experiences or restaurant meals at home.

5. Mushroom Mania

Kroger predicts that 2021 will be a breakout year for mushrooms. They're rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and have the potential to elevate everyday recipes with their warm umami flavor. Mushrooms will also play a starring role in a variety of new products in 2021, including blended plant-based proteins, condiments, spices, seasonings, and more.

6. For the Planet

Consumers are more interested than ever before in the environmental impact of their lifestyle choices. According to a recent survey from 84.51°, 35% of Kroger shoppers strongly agree that they're more conscious of food waste since the onset of COVID-19, and more than half plan to continue taking steps to limit food waste after the pandemic. In the coming year, consumers will find a growing selection of eco-friendly products that reduce their carbon footprint, including plant-based and plant-blended meats, sustainably packaged products, and more.

Kroger is also conducting an in-depth assessment of its own sustainability goals. As part of its 2020 Environmental, Social and Governance report, the retailer committed to improve sustainable packaging, reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and eliminate tropical deforestation.

7. Fresh Innovation

Shoppers will see more innovative solutions launch in the coming year to help keep their favorite fruits and vegetables at the peak of freshness longer. Next year will see everything from no-cry onions to in-store hydroponic farms to plant-based coatings like Apeel to extend the shelf life of produce.

News emerged in September that Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart is working with Apeel to offer plastic-free English cucumbers to its shoppers. The idea is to coat the produce with an edible substance that protects the product from moisture and oxygen. Goleta, California-based Apeel also added $30 million in new funding in October from the International Finance Corp., Temasek and Astanor Ventures.

Kroger reported third-quarter net earnings of $631 million, or 80 cents per diluted share. Adjusted net earnings were $557 million, or 71 cents per diluted share. Identical sales, without fuel, were 10.9%, and digital sales grew 108% during the quarter.

Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Walmart U.S. is No. 1 on PG's list.

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