How the Pandemic Changed Consumer Behavior

The challenges and disruption that Covid-19 has brought are still being felt globally. Society has gone from working, socializing and travelling together to facing an uncertain time with the shutting of doors and social distancing.  The changes in consumer behavior have had a huge impact in many areas - most notably, across the food industry. As we enter a transitional period of recovery, how have consumers behaved differently? Which of these behaviors are here to stay? And, in addition, what will this mean for food producers, manufacturers and retailers as we move forward?

How has consumer behavior changed?

Lockdown has had a profound impact on how people live. Our homes have become the places where we eat, work, learn, communicate, play and exercise. The pandemic has not only changed our shopping and eating habits, but also where and how we do it.

According to the Global Consumer Insights Survey 2020 from PwC, understanding the pace of consumer change and the customer journey, can put companies in a position to navigate the disruption:

·         Around 74% of survey respondents now work from home at least some of the time

·         Since Covid-19, 35% are buying groceries online/by phone, with 38% saying they would pay for delivery of groceries that took less than two hours

·         Consumers are spending the most on groceries, in-place entertainment and home projects

·         45% are making fewer shopping trips for groceries, but filling up bigger baskets

Some consumer behavior changes may only be temporary, but what changes will stick and what are the implications for the food industry?

Preparing for the future

The McKinsey & Company report, 'How COVID-19 is changing consumer behavior –now and forever', sees new consumer behaviors emerging across eight areas of life:

·         Life at home

·         Work

·         Learning

·         Communications and information

·         Shopping and consumption

·         Health and well-being

·         Travel and mobility

·         Play and entertainment

New habits and demands, such as, the surge in e-commerce, preference for trusted brands, larger baskets, reduced shopping frequency, shift to stores closer to home, polarization of sustainability and higher unemployment change the consumer decision journey and companies need to be ready.

Consumers are thinking more about balancing what they buy in terms of sustainable and ethical brands. According to the UK Soil Association, 'Coronavirus has brought our food and farming systems sharply into focus. Reports on both sides of the Atlantic have also shown that since Covid, more people are now choosing to shop locally, and from small businesses, which can reduce the environmental impact of food and other product deliveries, by cutting the length of supply chains'.

With normal routines swapped, food companies must be able to adapt to the increasing demands for healthy, safe, fresh, new ready to eat, packaged foods, differing pack sizes, value for money and quality assurance.

Research by GlobalData shows that the majority of shoppers are still putting local, ethical or sustainably sourced ingredients first. The consumer survey found that 51% of UK shoppers consider sustainable or ethical ingredients as important as before the pandemic, while over a third of consumers (34%) said that these claims matter more to them now as a result of the pandemic.

Agile Manufacturing

Food producers and manufacturers require systems in place to implement flexible, agile manufacturing.  This enables them to shape their production to meet new changes and demands to support a more efficient approach.

Digital automation and future-proof systems and processes need to support companies to adapt to the needs of the consumer, adopting flexible, long-term solutions to react to changes in the supply chain.  Continuity and performance are vital to meet compliance with food safety legislation and retailer requirements.

Across the food industry, making wise investment decisions now, can deliver significant productivity gains in the future for continuity and performance in a changing world.

If you are interested in this topic, you will find additional information here:

Soil Association.org

How COVID-19 is transforming retail and what this means for organic