Retail businesses are hyper-focused on delivering value to brands as people change how and where they shop in response to the pandemic’s disruption. Accenture found that since the start of the pandemic, 60% of consumers have chosen to make environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases. Aside from an inclination toward mindful spending, consumers have become more intentional, with a mighty 71% committed to buying from those brands that align with their values.

As consumers shift their spending habits to support conscious consumerism, we’ll be taking a closer look at how three brands, IKEA, Sprouts Farmers Market and Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, acclimate to the next normal while living up to their values and connecting with customers.

Go Local, Shop Small

Revitalization is underway at suburban and rural retail centers as city commuters explore local shopping options and support small businesses. Raising Cane’s 2021 expansion plan has leasing agents from Dayton to Charleston ready to sign deals. According to Raising Cane’s founder and co-CEO Todd Graves, the franchise operations will launch 85 retail locations nationwide by the end of the year.

Sprouts’ expansion plans will focus mainly on strengthening their California and Texas areas, while exploring Florida and the Mid-Atlantic market. The natural grocer’s plans will scale down its store footprint to a range from 21,000 to 25,000 square feet to recapture the farmers market feel that their health enthusiasts’ consumer has come to appreciate.

Last fall, IKEA announced plans to test smaller-format stores in urban areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. IKEA’s efforts reflect a common theme in the industry to reinvent retail spaces to target new markets, provide omnichannel solutions and bring convenience to consumers.

Environmentally Conscious Expectations

Consumer demand for healthier foods and more information about the content and sourcing of what they eat has prompted brands to be transparent about their foodservice offerings. According to a Meticulous Research forecast, demand for plant-based foods could see annual growth of almost 12%, reaching a market value of more than $74 billion by 2027.

It’s unlikely that Raising Cane’s will change their recipe, but IKEA has plans for 50% of their restaurant meals to be plant-based and 80% non-red meat by 2025. The decision hopes to inspire healthy and sustainable food choices in direct support of the United Nations’ Food Sustainable Systems initiative.

Sprouts’ will be adding a plant-based meat patty to their private label as part of their commitment to promoting a healthier lifestyle. The grocer, an advocate for more nutritional food security, has redoubled its efforts to fight hunger, raising $1.6 million to distribute emergency food supplies to those impacted by the pandemic.

The plant-based category has experienced a positive shift in consumer sales, with steady growth throughout the pandemic. The category outperformed animal-based meat’s sales growth, compared to the previous year, and unlike the animal-based meats supply chain, they were not directly impacted by logistical disruptions brought on by COVID-19. With support from influencers like Martha Stewart, who declared plant-based as a definite move toward the future” according to VegNews and the expansion of plant-based producers like Impossible Foods into 700+ grocery stores around the country, we are likely to see more evident adoption from foodservice producers and providers.