As we are halfway through 2020 and in the middle of reopening phases in most parts of the country, we all realize it is not business as usual. COVID-19 (coronavirus) has impacted almost every global market and there is a clear pre- and post-COVID-19 benchmark with March as the turning point.
Consumers are cautiously optimistic about a post-pandemic marketplace. There is understanding that recovery might take a while, but consumers are willing to do what they can to help the economy recover. According to recent Coresight research, as of June 1, 67.1% of all respondents anticipated avoiding public places or travel after lockdowns end, down from 75.2% the week prior, and 76% in May. That number should continue to decrease with more consumers feeling safer about traveling outside of their homes as the reopening phrases progress.
Some clear trends are starting to surface which could help operators make buying decisions as they reopen to consumers. We expect these trends to stay steady into 2021, maybe longer if there is another increase in COVID-19 cases later in the year.
With the economy hit hard, consumers’ spending habits are being monitored much more closely than before COVID-19 and they are looking for ways to make their money go further. Price doesn’t always mean the cheapest product though. Even in recession times, consumers are willing to spend more on a product if they believe there is added value. It’s more about justification of price and offering maximum value for their money.
During the pandemic crisis, 25% of consumers tried private-label brands for the first time because of their value proposition. While private labels had already been a trend, there has been further decrease in brand loyalty as consumers had to try new brands in a low-stock environment.
As fast as the plummets happened for businesses, the pivoting came about just as fast. There has been an acceleration of channel blurring in the foodservice industry with restaurants adding groceries and manufacturers and distributors selling meal kits. The crisis has shown these businesses that they are capable of quickly adding new lines of business and blurring the lines between foodservice and retail. Expect to see even more new opportunities and options added in the coming months and year.
Although many consumers still reached for comfort snacks during this stressful time, an IRI survey revealed that 48 percent of Gen Z and millennials said they were eating healthier during the pandemic. Beyond the general terms of “healthy eating” or “dieting”, consumers will be evaluating their long-term health to reduce the threat of illness and disease. The term “healthy” snacks will transition into more of a “wellness” interest. Consumers will be searching for products with added benefits that help them maintain a healthier lifestyle and steady routine. Products with functional ingredients, added antioxidants, vitamins and fiber will be especially in demand.
According to a HarrisonCo study, 40% of respondents exercised at home for the first time and over 50% of them said they are motivated to continue due to a renewed appreciation for their health and well-being. The desire to stay fit and active until as late in life as possible is something that will be intensified in the aftermath of COVID-19. This is something that will be linked to consumers recognizing that poor immune systems are something that increase the risk of disease and illness, especially in later life. Snacks with ingredients that help to boost and improve immune systems will see lots of success post-pandemic.
A trend reversal that we should expect to see as we move out of this global pandemic is a de-escalation of sustainability spending while consumers regain financial footing. This includes sustainable packaging and purchases of organic food and beverages. This spending is expected to bounce back, but it will be tied to economy health and confidence in the future.
Expect consumers to also be more concerned about nutritional labels being backed by scientific facts. Generalized claims like “all natural” and “free-from” will show decline with consumers wanting official certifications to ensure their nutritional needs are being met.
Focusing on the e-commerce channel for growth in 2020 and 2021 will be key. According to TechCrunch, e-commerce sales in 2020 will climb by 18% to reach $709.78 billion, representing 14.5% of total U.S. retail sales. Although already a growing trend, this threshold wasn’t predicted until 2025.
The majority of consumers will now be digital first. They will find products digitally, do their own research there and then order online. Even as businesses reopen, there will be a greater shift to online home delivery and click & collect, with some consumers still interested in seeking methods that help reduce contact with others in stores.
Interested in how each foodservice channel is predicted to recover from the pandemic? We dive deeper into Technomic’s Post-Pandemic Playbook and our TGF take on some of their predictions for each channel.