The Future of Food: What Happens After Covid

By Carrissa Pahl Published on Dec. 17, 2020

There is no doubt that the food industry is changing forever. Who knows if it will yield all good results, but something is clear - we will have more options to get the food we want, when we want it.

2020 started off on a very high note in regards to health and wellness initiatives. Demand for sustainable, organic ingredients, and plant-based meals was in high demand. The amount of local products and the drive towards values based, digital, and thriving startups did not last long however. The Covid-19 stay-at-home orders have changed the way consumers shop and eat. Since fresh foods are hard to come by and most restaurants are not allowing indoor dining, people are buying unprecedented amounts of packaged foods, putting a halt to some of those trying to eat healthier and cleaner.

As people continue to lose their jobs and file for unemployment, they are becoming much more frugal with their incomes. This means not paying for the wholesome, clean ingredients that were popular before the pandemic hit.

So What Now?

Studies have shown that 53% of people will wait at least three months before returning to restaurants and 38% of people will wait at least five months or until further regulations and health advancements before returning to restaurants. As more people are seeing trends like cooking meals from scratch and looking for healthier options, some might wonder how much of this will actually last.

Products such as immune support tablets or supplements to better sleep and stress management will become more popular as people continue to stay at home and have limited opportunities to get out and enjoy society.

Some Trends to Look For

Here is a list of trends that have seemed to take off during this time of stay-at-home orders and Covid-19 precautions.

Online shopping

Not only has online shopping taken off on sites like Amazon and other online shopping services, online grocery orders have also skyrocketed. Contactless delivery and avoiding exposure in a grocery store is attractive to those following quarantine orders.

The new normal for resturants and grocery stores post-Covid

For restaurants, takeout is the new normal. Chefs are trying to figure out how to make their meals look to-go ready rather than restaurant-dining ready. More practical ways of serving takeout food are also on the horizon. Disposable menus and cutlery will soon need to be introduced.

Grocery stores will need to figure out how to reconfigure their stores in order to have wider aisles and more space in between shoppers. More stores will need to adopt contactless payment. Amazon Go is a good example of this. Although there aren’t too many locations, it is a good step forward. Say goodbye to open buffets and the hot section in grocery stores.

Will food become more sustainable?

Sustainability in food means producing, packaging, transporting, and selling food in ways that are better for the environment and human life. To comply with this, companies have started investing in ways to produce food without relying on the death of animals. This would mean being able to eat food that tastes like and looks like meat without killing animals, leading to better treatment of animals and, subsequently, the environment.

Since it has become more difficult to trust your food, with the growing concern of food safety, the emergence of sustainable foods will be essential to helping save our environment and food economy.

Researchers are also finding that if companies such as food production companies can integrate AI into their supply and demand loop, it will be a bit easier to recover. Even if something is made in the US, the company might rely on foreign exports for parts or other aspects of their business. How can society create a circular economy in their own country so people feel safe and as if they can rely on where they get their products being safe, and clean.

The only way out of this global health crisis is to work together. Find ways to work and find ways to a better solution that saves lives as well as lets people have some of their freedoms back.

Which Trends are Actually Here to Stay

Many of these trends won’t last after we have a vaccine and the mess of Covid is cleaned up. Here are a few trends that researchers think are going to stick around for the long haul.

Buying local and supporting small businesses

This pandemic has shattered revenue and forced many small businesses to close forever. It is extremely difficult for someone to start a business let alone keep it up and running. Buying local, whether that’s local foods or other items, will not go away. This past year has shown how important it is to support those in our near communities.

Online grocery shopping

Who has the time to stand in line to get into a grocery store when most often people are trying to make it a quick in-and-out experience? Online ordering is a great way to avoid the lines and the raids of people trying to stock up for the “apocalypse”. There are now more options than ever for ordering groceries online. From discounted health foods, subscription services, and regular grocery stores getting in on the trend, there are countless ways to get food delivered right to your doorstep.

Home cooking

The safety of takeout meals and restaurants came into question when the Covid-19 lockdowns were enforced. Many people began cooking all their meals from home in order to minimize human contact. There is no doubt that people will be itching to get back to their favorite restaurants, but if the pandemic has shown anything, it’s the value of a home cooked, nutritious meal eaten with family.

Rethinking the foods we eat

Covid-19 has given us more time. More time to think and more time to realize what we are putting into our bodies. Along with the many health benefits that whole, plant-based foods provide, they are also nicer to the environment and help preserve our world as we know it.

Natural Skincare

People have taken more time to focus on what they put on their skin. More and more research tells us that our faces are our biggest glands and whatever we put on them, immediately sinks into our skin. Focusing on the ingredients that are soaking in when you wear makeup all day or simply regular facial and skin products has become more popular. Being able to find those products that give a “natural glow” will not be going away.

Food Technology Companies

Here are some startups that are making headway in the future of food technology and finding new ways to feed people.

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Tovala: Tovala brings healthy home-cooked meals to you. Tovala has made a smart convection/broiling/steaming oven designed to automatically cook a variety of low-labor meal-kit-based meals also created by the startup (alongside cooking other food). Customers can choose how often they want their meal deliveries and can choose from an extremely vast menu. This service is similar to other ready to make at home meal kits, but they provide everything needed including the oven to make their food. There is essentially no hassle and this service saves a ton of time. Tovala packaging comes with a QR code that one simply scans and the oven knows exactly how long and at what temperature to cook your food. Not only is this service easy, but also it delivers healthy options without the time commitment.

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Planetarians: Planetarians is the next platform for alternative meats: clean, water efficient, cheap. When the alternative meat consumption grows from the current 2% to a projected 23%, where will the industry get proteins? Ingredients for isolation, fermentation, cultured meats might be not so steadily available in the food system on Earth. Planetarians has developed a new platform to make alternative meats from animal feed (sunflower, corn DDGS, pulses). SKipping protein isolation, it uses very little water to produce and no chemicals. Product prototypes have umami taste, improved protein quality and lower costs than meats made from isolates and concentrates.

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Bowery Farming: A vertical farming startup out of NY, Bowery is committed to reimagining farming from the ground up to eradicate trade-offs between quality and quantity, sustainability and scale, and healthy and delicious when it comes to the food we eat. These farms make anyone a gardener by making it easy, accessible, and having less space needed to grow an abundance of vegetables or herbs. Bowery turns industrial spaces into smart farms where crops are stacked vertically to maximize space. This means these seeds are protected from weather and unwanted pests as well.

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Karana: Karana is changing the way Asian comfort food is made by creating a meat alternative made from jackfruit. They created an irresistible alternative meat. One that responds to customer concerns around food transparency, healthy eating, and sustainability while also offering a genuinely meaty taste and texture. Committed to keeping the charm of Asian comfort food, Karana is determined to create healthy food while being sustainable and very tasty. Karana’s jackfruit is sourced from Sri Lanka, where jackfruit is already a common meat substitute. They try to create the look, feel, and taste of shredded pork for those irresistible traditional Asian dishes.


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