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Shifts in Trends: What the New Normal Looks Like During a Pandemic

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In our continuing series of posts about how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted food ingredient companies, we’ve discussed the importance of communicating with your customers, and even some creative ways you can do that without ever leaving your office, wherever that may be these days. As we all shift into the new normal during this pandemic, we wanted to take a step back to bring you some insights on how it is reshuffling consumers’ eating priorities and changing their food and grocery purchasing habits.

Convenience

With many people working from home and simultaneously helping their kids with schoolwork, space and time for many consumers is at an even greater premium. The kitchen table is no longer just for eating — it may be pulling double duty as an office or school desk. But with so many restaurants closed down, consumers are cooking at home and taking the time to enjoy meals as a family. However, balancing the time constraints of work, parenting, teaching and cooking means convenient meal solutions are in greater demand than ever before. Consumers want products that can help them quickly pull dinner together, so it’s likely we’ll see a rise in solutions – things like ready-to-eat foods, pre-marinated meats and meal kits – that can help save time in the kitchen.

Packaging

Though a focus on sustainability has resulted in the reduction of single-use packaging in recent years, the pandemic has shifted public opinion in favor of individually wrapped items, which consumers perceive as safer and more hygienic. Consumers want the peace of mind that the products they buy are safe from perceived contamination, and the apparent reduced physical handling of single-pack items provide them with this. We also expect to see an increase in the available range of product sizes as consumers purchase larger sizes of items in order to stock up.

Freshness and Shelf Life

Freshness has always been key for consumers. This is more important now than ever, as they purchase items that they feel can last in their pantries, fridges and freezers. Data shows that consumers are making fewer trips to the store, and buying more per trip when they do. Shelf life is key for these consumers, who want food that will last until their next shopping trip. Frozen foods are an ideal way for consumers to achieve this. And it shows — sales in this category are up 5% compared to 2019. Finally, we expect to see more products with safety and freshness features like tamper seals and resealable containers, which offer peace of mind to safety-minded shoppers.

Premiumization

Many consumers are focusing on purchasing food essentials like meat, bread, eggs and milk. Accordingly, we expect to see a downturn in premiumization as consumers become choosier about how they spend their food dollars. It’s worth noting, however, that despite skipping more premium items, consumers are spending more money on groceries as they move away from eating out.

Clean Label

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered consumer shopping priorities, especially when it comes to ingredients. We expect that purchases of clean-label goods will be put on the back burner to those that are more economically priced. Consumers know that although traditional preservatives may not qualify as clean label, they help keep food fresh, a quality they’re seeking out as they try to stock up on supplies for long-term storage. Foods in the better-for-you category (i.e., items low in salt and sugar or with added fiber or vitamins) may not fare as poorly, as they appeal to health-conscious consumers who find themselves unable to get to the gym.

In Closing

The pandemic has presented unique challenges to nearly every industry, requiring B2B companies to adapt and respond quickly to this changing landscape. As businesses work through navigating these difficult times, it’s important to keep an eye on shifts in the food industry. We’ll do our best to keep you updated with knowledge and insights throughout the coming days.

What other impacts do you think the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the way consumers approach their food and grocery purchases? Leave us a comment below!

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