Things are getting spicier, and some of us are going sober.

By Tim Nelson
December 11, 2020
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To the surprise of no one, our grocery shopping habits have changed quite a bit over the course of 2020. Not only have many outsourced their shopping trips to app-based services like Instacart, but what we buy has also shifted dramatically to accommodate the realities of life under lockdown. 

With the (first?) year of Covid-19 almost over, Instacart has figured it's time to look ahead and gauge what might change when it comes to how we eat in 2021. If the answers in a new Harris Poll survey of more than 2,000 Americans they commissioned is any indication, it could be a spicier, more keto-friendly time than ever.

Based on the data, half of those polled say they like to cook most (if not all) of their meals at home. Furthermore, 34% say they don't really plan meals, preferring to work with what they have on hand rather than going through an elaborate prepping and planning process. 

Food delivery during quarantine
Credit: yulkapopkova via Getty Images

So how does a home chef keep things fresh in that situation? Lots of spice. The survey showed 21% introduced more spices and unique flavors into their cooking in 2020, and the sales data backs that up: Prii Piri sauce, similar to what you'd find at Nando's, saw an impressive 725% growth in sales, while Instacart customers bought 227% more Lao Gan Ma. Za'atar (39%), Turmeric (18%) and Gojuchang (17%) also saw gains. 

Many of us justifiably and understandably used 2020 as an excuse to treat ourselves and ditch any diet plans, but those who did forge ahead with their diet plans chose to eat keto. 28% of those who dieted chose the high-fat, low-carb method, and companies smart enough to put
"keto" in the name of their food products collectively saw a 72% increase in year over year sales via Instacart. Unsurprisingly, four of the top six markets for Keto products were in California: San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, and LA all had their fair share of keto dieters. 

2020 also gave us plenty of reasons to drink, but it seems like those who do imbibe did so more mindfully. Hard Seltzer interest spiked 519% on Instacart from 2019 to 2020, while searches for Hard kombucha were up 320%. Many also seem intrigued by the idea of imbibing on cocktails while cutting out the alcohol: Sales for alcohol-free spirits were up by 195% this year, indicating that there might not have been real booze in your coworkers' Zoom happy hour drinks. 

In a year like this, though, where people are shopping is more important than what they're buying. The survey found that 23% of Americans researched locally run or owned brands, with 14% reporting an interest in supporting women- or BIPOC-owned businesses. Given the hardships small businesses have endured in this garbage year, these are perhaps the most important trends to bring into 2021. 

While 2021 will hopefully give us a chance to resume our "normal" habits eventually, there's no doubt that some of the changes we've made to what and how we eat will endure. If the world comes out of the pandemic as a zestier place that cares more about small and minority-owned businesses, it could be worse.