Industry innovations and consumer acceptance of new technology are surging because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One area that has seen dramatic changes is online, with one market researcher saying the pandemic has pushed e-commerce five years into the future.

The sales figures experienced by retailers such as Walmart Inc., Target Corp. and, Inc. during the year tell a dramatic story. Walmart e-commerce sales shot up 97% during the second quarter of fiscal 2020 as shoppers shifted away from visiting stores to delivery and click-and-collect. Target Corp.’s second-quarter results were equally remarkable. Digital comparable store sales spiked nearly 200% during the quarter. Breaking down digital sales by channel mix, same-day services experienced 279% comp growth, drive-up grew 734%, and sales fulfilled by the retailer’s Shipt service were up more than 350%.

E-commerce made up 16% of total retail sales of $1.3 trillion during the period. For context, during the first quarter of 2020 e-commerce was 12% of total retail sales and 11% of retail sales during the second quarter of 2019.

“We’ve probably leapt five years ahead into the future in a very short period of time,” said David Portalatin, vice president and industry adviser for The NPD Group, Inc., in the Trends and Innovations virtual event hosted by Sosland Publishing’s Food Business News. “Many of the things that we were talking about before have really intensified and come into focus. The future really is now in terms of how we go to market differently both in stores and in e-commerce, truly the omnichannel concept of the future.”

Practical applications

For retailers, the digital age brings new opportunity. For instance, Chicago staple The Goddess and Grocer is now offering its famed creations from executive pastry chef Alysha Boze to customers across the United States with shipping and delivery from Goldbelly.

Free shipping is currently available for any of the specialty grocery store and café’s cakes, cookies and cupcakes, including:

  • The Goddess Rainbow Cake – A six-layer rainbow cake with vanilla buttercream icing and rainbow sprinkles
  • The Goddess Carrot Cake – A spiced carrot cake with shredded carrots, walnuts, pineapple, raisins and cream cheese frosting
  • Assorted Cupcakes – Choice of vanilla or chocolate cupcakes topped with a choice of vanilla or chocolate buttercream frosting
  • Oreo Cake – Chocolate cake filled with dark chocolate fudge and Oreo pieces, covered in cookies and cream buttercream, and topped with chocolate ganache and more Oreo cookie pieces
  • Red Velvet Cake – Traditional Southern-style red velvet cake, topped with cream cheese frosting

In addition, popular cookie decorating kits feature buttery shortbread cookies with colorful vanilla icing ready to go in piping bags, and sprinkles, with a choice of primary or pastel colors.

The Goddess and Grocer currently has three Chicago locations, as well as one inside of O’Hare Airport.

What consumers want

The Food Group, a full-service food and beverage marketing agency, reports how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the hospitality industry from independent restaurants to national chains and the future of foodservice operations.

In the new tfgTOUCHPOINTS white paper, Special Edition: What Commercial Foodservice Operators Want in the COVID-19 Era, The Food Group provides an inside look at how commercial foodservice operators have been affected by, and how they are adapting to, COVID-19. Additionally, the report provides takeaways and guidance for how food and beverage manufacturers can help operators succeed in an uncertain and new era of hospitality.

The following findings provide insights into the ways COVID-19 is reshaping the hospitality industry:

COVID-19 has forced operational changes that will forever alter the way people eat out. In addition to cutting staff positions (56%) and paring down menus (58%), operators are doing their best to make guests feel safe by eliminating self-service and buffets and switching to disposable items and portion-control condiments.

Technology has become essential to daily operations and profitability. Social media has become a crucial vehicle for providing restaurant updates and promoting specials. The pandemic has also fast-tracked the adoption of new technologies for many operators such as pick-up and delivery systems and virtual events for training, education, and networking.

Foodservice operators want and need content that helps them solve their business problems.

This “new normal” has forced operators to shift their priorities. Providing benefits such as shelf stability, reduced prep time, offering products that have multiple applications across a menu, and creating streamlined equipment are just a few of the ways foodservice manufacturers can help operators run more efficiently.

eSlice of Joy

Leading bakeries understand the power of the digital marketplace.

The Cheesecake Factory recently shared twice the joy by offering two eSlice of Joy Cards for every $25 in gift cards or eGift cards purchased online during the holidays.

Each eSlice of Joy Card is redeemable for one complimentary slice of The Cheesecake Factory's legendary cheesecake beginning Jan. 1, 2021 through March 31, 2021. With more than 250 menu selections – handmade, in-house with fresh ingredients – and more than 30 varieties of world-famous cheesecake, this special offer is sure to be a hit with even the most difficult-to-shop-for people on your gift list. Gift Cards and eSlice of Joy Cards are redeemable when dining in and when ordering for pick-up or curbside to-go from

“We wanted to remove some of the stress of last-minute holiday shopping by sharing extra cheer with our popular online Double eSlice of Joy Gift Card promotion,” says David Overton, founder, and chief executive officer of The Cheesecake Factory Incorporated. “This is one of our guests’ favorite promotions and we are happy to be offering it online through Christmas this year.”

Crafted cake specialties

Bisous Bisous Pâtisserie is busy at work creating seasonal treats such as decorated cakes and decadent desserts. Founded in 2015 by Andrea Meyer, CultureMap TasteMaker Award’s “2019 Pastry Chef of the Year,” Bisous Bisous Pâtisserie specializes in a large variety of French-style pastries and cakes made from scratch daily utilizing the finest ingredients, including its signature French Macarons, cruffins, croissants, tarts, éclairs, and custom-made cakes.

Bisous Bisous also offers culinary classes, mobile sales opportunities with its Rendezvous food truck and an off-site kitchen for wholesale business. Bisous Bisous was named Dallas Observer’s 2020 Best Bakery.

All of Bisous’ delicious treats are available to order in advance online at and by calling ahead for contactless, curbside pick-up. The store is open for business, limited to one healthy person at a time. Bisous’ reduced store hours are Monday through Saturday, 8am to 5pm and Sunday from 10am to 3pm.

Bisous’ crafted cakes make a beautiful centerpiece and taste as good as they look. Examples of quintessential holiday desserts such as Bûche De Noël, French for Yule log, available in caramel toffee and chocolate hazelnut.

Whole cakes available by pre-order for $52.50 and individual slices available daily in-store for $7. Additional adorable cakes include Gingerbread Gumdrop, Melted Snowman, Chocolate Peppermint, and Christmas Sweater starting at $45.

Vegan baking

Vegan cake baking is on the rise as consumers crave more from their baked goods than ever before. They want their cakes and pies to taste delicious and to be better for their health and the planet too.

With Veganuary here, WGSN, the global trend forecasting firm, announces the release of new research on the growth of interest in vegan baked goods based on its proprietary WGSN Trend Curve methodology that includes data from a custom social media Influencer Map and online retail sales.

The buzz for #veganbaking on social media jumped 35 percent in the past year while #baking alone grew a comparatively tepid 12 percent considering the joy and talents consumers discovered and shared on social media while baking at home during coronavirus-induced lockdowns, the research reveals.

Thanks to innovations in ingredients including the advent of chickenless eggs and plant-based alternatives to butter and dairy milk, vegan baked goods, once considered lesser-than traditional ones, are now being embraced by eaters around the world with even more gusto than that for their “real” equivalents.

“I attribute the vegan baking trend to unprecedented concern about personal health, animal welfare and environmental resources,” says Kara Nielsen, director of WGSN Food & Drink. “Like so many consumers, those following flexitarian and vegan diets nevertheless still crave a sweet treat, comfort food, and celebratory baked items, all of which make this an ideal time for food makers to invest in developing more vegan baking ingredients, mixes, and finished products.”

The WGSN Trend Curve methodology combines data science, analytics and human ingenuity to provide valuable visualization of how trends are growing and then how they should be leveraged for new product development. The work is done in partnership with data-driven sister brands Edge by Ascential and Yimian by Ascential.

Vegan baked goods revealed by the WGSN Trend Curve research include a surge in creative banana breads, gooey chocolate brownies made with plant butter, and buttercream made with aquafaba. Recipe influencers and the home bakers that follow them are baking birthday cakes, fruit tarts, cupcakes, lots of cookies and cookie balls. Seasonal desserts and cheese-less cheesecakes are also common.