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4 Ways COVID-19 Could Impact the Future of Food

  • Rob Patterson

With citizens across the country sheltering in place for the time being, our ways of life have been turned upside down. For many, the commute to work has been limited to a commute to the other room. That fitness class or gym session has morphed into a virtual one from within the comforts of home. Even the way that we eat food, an essential commodity for life, has changed drastically. Though many restaurants are still offering delivery, the fact of the matter is that all the time spent at home has led to major shifts in consumption behavior.

In the short term, we’ve seen consumers adapt to the “new normal” by stockpiling goods and utilizing grocery delivery services, among other changes. But, as the world begins to reopen in the coming weeks and months, will consumers revert back to old ways or will some changes represent a more permanent shift in behavior? Below, we take a look.

 

Looking for Local 

According to Euromonitor research from last year, 26% of consumers said they look for country of origin on food or drink labels, making it the third most sought-out claim behind Non-GMO and Organic. Due to the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, consumers are being even more careful about food safety, and that includes where it’s being sourced from.

 

Local produce at a farmer's market

 

Additionally, early reports from China indicate that consumers are increasingly choosing to visit smaller, local grocery stores rather than the large ones that attract crowds. As the U.S. begins its march towards the new normalcy, expect consumers to increasingly support local – both in the food they eat and in the businesses they support.

 

Delivery Gaining Ground

With demand currently outpacing supply in terms of delivery slots, ordering groceries can be a frustrating experience. However, the reality is that people tend to stay engaged with online shopping once they try it. For that reason, we can expect that the short-term acceleration in grocery delivery will have some strong staying power – particularly in markets with higher population density. In China, that staying power has been most notable with the elderly; while some of that can probably be attributed to lingering COVID-19 concerns, the convenience factor cannot be overlooked as an impetus for long-term change.

 

Functional Food and Beverage

Thanks to the rise of the wellness movement, consumers were already consuming functional foods and beverages with benefits ranging from improved stomach health to fighting free radicals. It’s not just kombucha that’s seeing a rise in interest during the pandemic, though. Foods that provide boosts of energy, increased brain health and memory, and immune support have all proven popular as consumers seek to stay healthy and sharp despite the disruption in our lives.

 

Limits on Loyalty

In a national survey conducted by Mindshare last week, nearly two-thirds of Americans have tried new brands during the pandemic. Though that should come as no surprise given all of the stockpiling and strains on the supply chain, the more concerning piece of news is that 62% of consumers say they are likely to continue doing so when this is over. From an economic perspective, the possibility of a recession enhances the possibility of reduced loyalty, making it all the more imperative to continue building brand equity in the coming months.  

If your brand is interested in discussing how to navigate this crisis or planning for afterwards, contact us today to learn more.

 

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Sources: “Food and Nutrition in Light of COVID-19.” Euromonitor (2020), “Mindshare Finds Pandemic Impacting Brand Access, Loyalty: Many Americans Say They’ll Continue Using New Brands.” MediaPost (2020).