The Grocery Trends To Look Forward To In 2021

Instacart released its "New Year, New Cart" forecast of food-buying trends and attitudes.
Luis Alvarez via Getty Images

The year 2020 saw big changes to the grocery shopping experience ― from the bread-baking craze to the pandemic panic buying rush. Looking ahead to 2021, Instacart is forecasting the grocery trends expected to take hold next year in the U.S.

The online grocery platform released its first “New Year, New Cart” 2021 report with at-home food trends, shopping habits and attitudes to look out for. It seems after indulging in comfort foods and booze to cope in 2020, consumers will be shifting to lower-alcohol cocktails, keto snacks and bolder spices, among other trends.

The Instacart report combines a in-depth analysis of Instacart search and purchase activity and a new online survey conducted by The Harris Poll. The folks at Instacart compared searches and sales from Jan. 1, 2019, through Nov. 1, 2019, to activity from the same period in 2020 to identify trending products and categories. Meanwhile, the survey took place from Nov. 5-9 and reached 2,050 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

Without further ado, here are the five grocery trends to look forward to in 2021.

Flavorful Spices And Condiments

Although many turned to their favorite comfort foods this year, Instacart’s data suggests people may be trying to spice things up more in 2021. The report identified five spices and condiments that got a big boost in year-over-year sales: piri piri sauce (up 725%), Lao Gan Ma (up 227%), za’atar (up 39%), turmeric (up 18%) and gojuchang (up 17%).

“2021 is shaping up to be a flavorful year. Consumers are looking for quick and easy ways to spice up the meals they’ve been making at home, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in handcrafted shelf-stable sauces and spice blends on the Instacart marketplace,“ said Instacart trends expert and senior product manager Laurentia Romaniuk.

Keto, Keto, Keto

According to Instacart’s survey, 28% of those who tried a diet in 2020 opted for the high-fat, low-carb keto diet. Sales trends were consistent with the survey, as products with “keto” in the name saw a 72% increase in the Instacart marketplace.

The cities that had the most keto product orders this year were Austin, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Houston, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Denver, Chicago and Tampa. Additionally, Instacart found that keto treats in particular were in demand for adherents to the diet. The platform identified the 10 most popular keto products in the marketplace:

  1. KetoPint Salt and Caramel Keto Bar

  2. Think! Keto Protein Bar ― Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie flavored

  3. Birch Benders Keto Pancake and Waffle Mix

  4. Sundae Shoppe Keto Peanut Butter Fudge Ice Cream

  5. Sundae Shoppe Keto Cookie Dough Ice Cream

  6. Lenny and Larry’s Keto Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie

  7. Sundae Shoppe Keto Mint Chip Ice Cream

  8. Epic Chicken Sriracha Protein Bar

  9. Ratio Keto Friendly Strawberry Dairy Snack

  10. Ratio Keto Friendly Vanilla Dairy Snack

Less Potent Alcohol

“Homemade craft cocktails have been popular this year with the work-from-home crowd,” Romaniuk said. “We’ve seen sales for trendy alcohol-free spirits boom, increasing by 195% year-over-year. Perhaps consumers are looking to turn over a new leaf in 2021 with tasty, guilt-free libations.”

In addition to booze-free spirits, consumers have also indicated rising interest in low-calorie alcohol beverages and alcoholic versions of healthy drinks. Hard kombucha rose 320% in Instacart searches, with the most purchases coming from Seattle, San Diego, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

While White Claw continues to dominate, searches for brands across the hard seltzer category rose 519% compared to 2019, and sales spiked in Orlando, Chicago, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington, D.C.

Brand Mindfulness

The year 2020 brought a racial reckoning that raised awareness for many brands owned by people of color. The economic crisis also highlighted the importance of supporting small, locally owned brands.

About 23% of the Instacart survey respondents have researched brands that are locally run or owned in 2020, and 14% said they’ve researched brands run or owned by women and by BIPOC. The grocery platform predicts consumers will continue to be selective about the stores and brands they support in 2021.

Instacart also put together a list of five women and BIPOC-owned brands to look out for in 2021, based on high-performers that have seen search traffic increases this year:

Weekday Warriors

With the work-from-home flexibility of 2020, Instacart unsurprisingly saw changes to the grocery shopping schedules people follow. The number of orders placed between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the work week rose by 32%.

Twenty-two percent of survey respondents said they shifted from weekend to weekday grocery shopping runs this year, and the number of Instacart orders placed on weekdays increased by 8%. The report predicts that this evolution from the “Sunday Shop” to the “Monday Mission” or the “Tuesday Trip” may continue into the following year.

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