Flowers are blooming, temperatures are on the rise, and an array of SPF sunblock is dominating store shelves. That can only mean one thing: Summer is coming.

While this summer offers a little more freedom than summer 2020, as COVID-19 restrictions lift in various parts of the country, many consumers are still being cautious and sticking close to home. For these consumers, it means continued eating and entertaining at home. In fact, according to new research from Acosta, 92% of consumers polled said that even after the pandemic ends, they plan to eat at home as often or even more often than they do now.

So, what can consumers expect this summer as they shop the aisles of their preferred retailers in-person or online? Here are five product trends that you can bet as hot topics this summer.

1. I Sea You

Grocery store purchases were up across just about every category for 2020, thanks to reduced or complete lack of indoor dining. But one category that experienced significant growth over the past year has been seafood. Fresh, frozen, or shelf-stable, consumers bought it all, with each of those sectors experiencing double-digit growth in 2020. And that love for the fruits of the sea doesn’t appear to be ending anytime soon. Data shows that seafood is still popular with consumers, particularly fresh and frozen.

2. Shrimp—and anything else—on the barbie

As people shed their winter layers and head outside for some Vitamin D, they’re taking their cooking with them. In 2020, we saw products related to outdoor grilling spike, including grills themselves to grill accessories to the food you can easily throw on for at-home alfresco dining. People eagerly wanted to escape their homes, even if it was just to the backyard. And this year, sales of outdoor essentials rose almost 20% between March and April 2021, as people got a jump on grilling season. The grilling season also backs up the above seafood trend. One of the top-growing barbecue-related categories was seafood, growing 29% for the 12 months ending in April 2021, compared to 2020.

3. Self-care shines

When the COVID-19 forced many people to stay home, sales of beauty products went through the roof. “Self-care” became the phrase of the day (or rather, the year) as consumers coped with the stress of the pandemic by indulging in health and beauty rituals they previously had not. Face masks, hair masks, dry brushing—you name it; it got a boost this past year. Now, these products and rituals are embedded in consumers’ daily routines. With summer approaching, skincare, for example, takes on a whole new meaning, and products that tout clean ingredients, sustainability, or another certification that consumers seek, will undoubtedly be popular products. You can expect hair masks, face peels, after-sun skincare, and sunblock to have a heyday this summer, as once again people start to travel and venture out of their houses as COVID restrictions lift.

4. Responsible products are the best products

There has been a drastic increase in consumer interest of brands and products that are transparent. Consumers today want brands that show their responsible side, through certifications that verify they are what they say they are—USDA Organic, Fair Trade, Certified B Corporation—the list goes on. That interest hasn’t waned; if anything, as shifting consumer purchasing habits continue to evolve and impact the CPG retail industry, that interest will continue its steady growth. This summer will bring more conscious consumerism as over the past year, consumers have come to simply expect more from the brands they buy—more honesty, more engagement, more proof that they’re spending their money on products and brands that align with their values.

5. On the go, now that we have somewhere to go

With more places opening up, people are tentatively venturing out more. The Acosta data showed some consumers, about 30%, are nervous about going back to restaurants—but that doesn’t mean they’re any less hungry. That’s an opportunity for manufacturers to get in front of consumers with portable offerings to satisfy consumers who are still wary about restaurants. Bonus points if those on-the-go offerings speak to the types of products consumers are gravitating toward, like plant-based, keto, gluten-free, global flavor, and triple bonus points if the snacking items are kid-friendly.  

Summer 2021 is shaping up to be one for the CPG record books. The trends that emerged in 2020 are still there, lingering in the background, and in some instances, here to stay. But as consumers step out of their houses and into the sunshine, the industry can be ready to greet them with open—socially distant—arms and fulfill their product needs.

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