What do consumers want in 2021? Beyond overarching retail trends (e-commerce everywhere, stores evolving for speed and retail moving closer to consumers), several smokin’ hot product trends will invigorate the industry this year. Nimble consumer goods suppliers that pounce on the following cross-category 2021 product trends will get their goods into retailers’ assortments and consumers’ hands. Let’s look at U.S. and global product trends for evidence of where retail is heading this year.

Domestic bliss

domestic products

Snazzy digs are in style and cocooning is super cool (unlike me in high school). Even with the arrival of promising vaccines, the pandemic will still keep us close to home for at least a fraction of the new year. Consumers will spruce up their homes for comfort and functionality with new home décor and home office products.1Jansen, Caroline. What’s selling in 2020’s holiday season. Retail Dive. December 14, 2020. Consumers seek boredom-busting home leisure products like toys and games, as soaring sales for LEGO and chess sets prove.2Even online, Lego shoppers have to wait in line. CNBC. November 27, 2020. 3Chess-related items become hot holiday gift, thanks to Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit.’ CNBC. November 27, 2020. Home cooking will continue to benefit food, beverage, and kitchenware suppliers, whether we turn to comfort food for simple, soothing pleasures or culinary creations that awaken our senses.4Stephens, Regan. These Will Be the 21 Biggest Food Trends of 2021, According to Chefs. Food & Wine. December 14, 2020.

Value for money

private label, value products

The COVID-19 pandemic jolted job security and consumer confidence, forcing many shoppers to rely on value-tier products to stretch every dollar.5Kopka, Udo, Eldon Little, Jessica Moulton, René Schmutzler, and Patrick Simon. What got us here won’t get us there: A new model for the consumer goods industry. McKinsey & Company.  July 30, 2020. 2020’s boom in value shopping inspired Dollar General to segment this growing market by launching a new banner, popshelf, for consumers seeking affordable yet higher quality merchandise.6 Repko, Melissa. Dollar General targets a higher-end shopper in the suburbs with new store, Popshelf. CNBC. October 8, 2020. To capitalize on this trend, brands can offer special deals, product bundles and economical price points, and retailers can offer value-tier private labels, to serve consumers with discretionary spending constraints.

Luxury and premium indulgences

luxury beauty products

Conversely, swanky consumers are jonesing to get the pampering party started. After wistfully watching their 2020 travel and entertainment budgets gather dust, many consumers will upgrade their consumption by buying premium products in 2021. Luxury shoppers are now willing to spend more for superior quality goods that add value and purpose to their lives, including home furnishings, beauty products, and apparel.7Beauloye, Florine Eppe. The Future of Luxury: 6 Trends To Stay Ahead in 2021. Luxe Digital. 2020. To earn upscale shoppers’ trust and sales, Amazon recently launched its global Counterfeit Crimes Unit and new Luxury Stores concept.8Paton, Elizabeth and Vanessa Friedman. The Luxury E-Commerce Wars Heat Up. The New York Times. November 29, 2020. Brands can cater to premium shoppers by offering products with superior quality ingredients or raw materials and lavishing them with attentive hospitality.

The shift to better-for-you food and living is here to stay. Health and wellness is entering the mainstream.

Shiv Joshi, Managing Director, Greystone Premium Organic Tea

Health and wellness

health and wellness products

Taking care of our physical and mental well-being rocketed up Americans’ list of 2020 priorities – yet it’s far from a fad. In 2021, we’ll see health and wellness expand across product categories. As proof of the momentum in wellness offerings, yoga apparel giant Lululemon acquired digital fitness brand Mirror to give health enthusiasts added value, variety, and community.9Walk-Morris, Tatiana. Lululemon to sell Mirror devices in stores, add community features. Retail Dive. November 11, 2020. Additional health trends include continued focus on self-care and plant-based everything.10Q&A: Health and safety will continue to drive grocery retail trends in 2021. SmartBrief. December 3, 2021.

Local love

Shop local

In 2020, 23% of Americans searched for local, small-scale food retailers, likely to keep their communities’ jobs and businesses viable despite shuttered storefronts.11 Bradbury, Rosie. Small, local brands are on shoppers’ minds, Instacart report finds. Grocery Dive. December 10, 2020. Networks of local companies have emerged as independent alternatives to retail multinationals. In Brooklyn, Cinch Market’s online marketplace aggregates the inventory of local Brooklyn businesses, including artisan products, to improve local competitiveness with same-day delivery.12Ryan, Tom. Will locals choose Brooklyn over Bezos? RetailWire. September 14, 2020. Meanwhile, migrating online by creating e-commerce sites or digital storefronts on Etsy, Shopify, Facebook, or Amazon gives local businesses the potential to go global.

Purchasing with purpose

supplier diversity

Consumers reward businesses that care, including purpose-led brands that support diversity, inclusion and ethical practices. Amid mass protests against racial and social injustice, 14% of shoppers researched women- or minority-owned establishments.13 Bradbury, Rosie. Small, local brands are on shoppers’ minds, Instacart report finds. Grocery Dive. December 10, 2020. Shark Tank star Daymond John teamed up with Lowe’s to help minority-owned businesses get their products discovered as consumers demand supplier diversity to reflect their needs.14Sahadi, Jeanne. This Shark Tank star is partnering with Lowe’s to help minority-owned businesses. CNN Business. September 16, 2020. Also, direct-to-consumer lingerie brand ThirdLove stands out with its inclusive assortment and body-positive marketing, celebrating women of all ages, ethnicities, and body types.15Power, Denise. ThirdLove Slices Price Point To Seduce Mid-Tier Bra Shoppers. Forbes. October 20, 2020.

Accenture: 61% of consumers are making more sustainable purchases with 89% likely to continue post-crisis.16COVID-19: New habits are here to stay for retail consumers. Accenture. August 13, 2020.

Sustainability

sustainability

As more retailers prove they’re taking environmental responsibility seriously, sustainable brands, such as HiBAR, can stand out with their own earnest commitment to protecting the earth. Kroger recently announced its new sustainable packaging commitment for its private labels, including more recycled content and less excess packaging.17Redman, Russell. Kroger to migrate all Our Brands products to sustainable packaging. Supermarket News. August 17, 2020. Walmart plans to use only renewable electricity by 2035 and its global operations will be zero-emission by 2040.18Blanco, Sebastian. Walmart Joins Amazon With Massive Sustainability Pledge. Forbes. September 22, 2020. Amazon unveiled a $2 Billion Climate Pledge Fund to invest in solutions to reduce carbon emissions to counter the global climate crisis.19Moorhead, Patrick. Amazon’s Climate Pledge Gains Crucial Momentum. Forbes. June 30, 2020. Target committed to ensuring 100% of its owned brand packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.20Berthiaume, Dan. Target focuses sustainability efforts on energy, packaging, workers. Chain Store Age. September 30, 2020. Sustainability certifications can also help smaller brands cut through the clutter in 2021.

GLOBAL TRENDS

The retail supply chain is globally entwined, so let’s look at influential product trends around the world, which are expected to grow in prominence in North America.

Japan: Preventative health

immune boosting food and beverage

Japanese consumers are renowned for being health-conscious, and the pandemic inspired them to seek products that strengthen their immune system to prevent COVID-19 infection. That’s why, as more Japanese families eat at home, suppliers now offer bigger packages of preventative health foods like R-1 functional probiotic yogurt brands by Meiji.21The Consumer Impact of Coronavirus in Japan. Euromonitor. June 22, 2020.

UK: Vegan

vegan products

UK grocery chains report strong sales of vegan and plant-based products since the coronavirus outbreak began, as more consumers now replace meat and dairy with more plant-based foods.22Smithers, Rebecca. UK demand for new vegan food products soars in lockdown. The Guardian. July 25, 2020. Tesco and Sainsbury’s launched their own lines of vegan products to give consumers more choice, especially as sales of meat-free alternatives rose by 25%.23Michail, Niamh. ‘Democratising the option’: Tesco & Sainsbury’s launch vegan private label range. FoodNavigator.com. January 9, 2018.

Europe: Free-from

preservative free

Many products are popular for what they omit. For instance, the gluten-free category earns strong sales in Italy, Germany, France, and Spain.24Global $337+ Billion Free-From Food Market: Growth, Trends and Forecast (2020-2025). ResearchAndMarkets.com. March 26, 2020. Spanish supermarket chain Mercadona recently added two new beer brands to its assortment in Portugal to reflect Portuguese consumers’ thirst for products that are 100% natural and free from additives.25Mercadona Launches Two New Beer Brands In Portugal. European Supermarket Magazine. August 27, 2019.

Europe & Asia: Domestic sourcing

domestically made products

A survey found two-thirds of consumers prefer to purchase goods produced in their own country, especially in China, Italy, South Korea, and Spain.26Yining, Ding. Retail rules rewritten as consumer trends change. Shine. June 3, 2020. China’s beauty brands have eroded foreign brands’ market share in this competitive category in part due to access, as 86% of Chinese cosmetic products are sold online in China, versus 58% for multinationals. One popular Chinese face cream brand, Dr. Yu, earned a 500% year-over-year revenue increase early in the pandemic.27Gopalan, Nisha. Covid Gives China’s Beauty Brands Enhanced Allure. Bloomberg. July 17, 2020. National sourcing also helps retailers shorten their supply chain, boosting speed, agility and resilience.

Overall, value-driven consumption, pandemic-inspired habits and widening economic disparity will influence 2021 product trends. In addition to these retail trends, consumer goods suppliers may wish to consider 2021 business planning best practices to inspire their strategy and prepare them for growth this year.

Which additional product trend(s) do you predict will sell well in 2021?

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