Confidence in home cooking here to stay

What produce trends can be expected in 2021?

Sheltering at home. Limited or no trips to restaurants at all. Wanting to eat healthier.

These are some of the significant trends seen in a pandemic-filled 2020 that, of course, have played out within produce companies.

At Frieda’s Specialty Produce in Los Alamitos, CA, the company has seen growth particularly in a few key items thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Turmeric has been on fire in terms of growth rate and ginger has been up 44 percent year over year,” says Cindy Sherman, director of marketing and innovation for Frieda’s, noting the company subscribes to IRI data. “Ginger’s dollar growth rate is amazing, given the huge size of the category already. For us, our dragon fruit business has been up considerably. It’s not a mainstream staple but people are using it more and more in their fruit salads and things like that.”

Sherman notes that because of the pandemic and it softening the foodservice industry as of March when restaurants closed, Frieda’s turned to focus more so on its retail business. “That caused us to eliminate items that were foodservice only. We had a more concentrated assortment of items that worked harder for us,” she says. “And it’s those items—like the dragon fruit—that aren’t the most exotic specialty items but aren’t mainstream either.”

Sherman sees continued interest from consumers in those just-outside-the-mainstream items into 2021. “People still want to discover new things and if they’re not eating out, they’ll turn to what they can rediscover in their own kitchen,” she says.

She notes a few other consumer trends that may develop throughout 2021 as vaccinations are being approved and distributed and, ostensibly, North America begins to reopen.

Embracing color
“Right now, there’s a lot of home comfort and there has been for the past six months at least. A lot of these will hold,” says Sherman. “But polychromatic plates are where we’re going. People are ready to shed the doom and gloom and embrace color and energy and living again once people are vaccinated and things are safer. We’ll start to focus on experiences again.”

Moving outside the norm
As Sherman notes, earlier in the pandemic particularly, consumers were interested in staples: potatoes and onions and later citrus, apples and bananas. “And people are so sick of cooking, food fatigue is real. However, they’re not necessarily now going to turn to the most far-flung items. But it may be jackfruit or purple sweet potatoes,” she says. “So, produce items that aren’t necessarily part of your everyday repertoire. Just bright, vibrant items that are a little bit outside the every day.”

Maintaining cooking confidence
“A lot of people learned they were better cooks than they thought they would be,” says Sherman. “We’ve built cooking confidence and that’s a good thing that’s emerged from the pandemic because it is more affordable and healthier to cook at home.” That said, the interest in returning to restaurants is there she says and 2021 may see a new baseline for home cooking. “Let’s say before the pandemic, people would eat out four times a week. Now they might just go three times a week because they are comfortable cooking more at home,” she says.

For more information:
Srishti Handa
Frieda's Specialty Produce
Tel: +1 (323) 496-2837
Srishti.Handa@friedas.com 
www.friedas.com


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