As COVID-19 continues to impact our lives, we spoke with each individual category expert to share their thoughts on the current markets and where we see the food and beverage industry going in the coming months.
Also, check out our staff’s more in-depth discussion with “The Economy of COVID-19 and What’s Next.“
We can’t predict what consumers are going to do. But I do see a few important dynamics that will surely influence us all.
We’re craving a return to normalcy. That first beverage in hand at the beginning of the day is still important. We’re consuming more of those at home now, but watch for a return to the away from home behavior. Our coffee, tea, or favorite cold brew beverages are rituals that represent this return to comfort and allow us to indulge ourselves with little moments of delight.
Consumers who may normally drink their favorite café beverages away-from-home have been primarily making coffee and tea at home for months. They still seek their favorite specialty drinks on occasion during quarantine but not with the frequency of the old routine. As more consumers return to work, they’ll find their way to made-to-order specialty coffee favorites. There’s a desire to return to normalcy, and stopping in our favorite coffee shop before settling into a new routine is an anchor consumers can grasp onto. And what about the community coffee shops provide? Many of us love working or studying in a great coffee shop. Meeting friends or using a café as a neutral business meeting site. I don’t know if we’ll be hanging out as soon as I’d like, drinking cup after cup of brewed coffee.
Givaudan’s Katie Butler is not only a beverage application scientist, but she’s also head barista and owner of Mile 42 Coffee in Loveland, Ohio. She’s noticing that bean sales are up, brewed coffee sales are down, and specialty drinks seem to provide her consumers at the walk-up window a moment of escape and “taste of normalcy”. “Coffee is now a family occasion, with whole families in tow when purchasing,” says Katie. Yep. I was dying for a great latte recently, and with two kids and a dog along for the ride I ended up with a few extra hot chocolates, a bag of gourmet cookies, and my own bag of beans to give my home brewing an upgrade.
Amy Lovelace, Senior Category Manager
The recent pandemic has impacted our day to day lives in so many ways- including what we eat! Many Americans are playing it safe and practicing social distancing but being cooped up at home may mean that eating, especially snacks, is the way some people will occupy their time. According to a New York Post poll, about 40% of Americans say they’ve been eating more snack foods since the outbreak began, with 26% admitting they’re finding comfort in chocolate, specifically. The grocery store features lot of empty shelves where chips and chocolates once appeared! The demand for cheap snack food is astronomical right now! Companies like Mondelez are experiencing “unprecedented demands” for its Oreo, Ritz, and Triscuit snacks. I think this booming snack space will stay that way for a few months but once we return to more “normal” activities, snack purchases will return to normal, albeit steadily growing, levels.
Some brands have turned their efforts toward online selling as a way to stock up their pantries during the outbreak. Before the pandemic, I never ordered my groceries online but now I can’t imagine going back to the store. I think e-commerce is going to evolve long after the pandemic and increase profit for all categories!
Armand Ansari, Associate Category Manager
Well-Being & Escapism
After COVID 19, I believe the health and wellness trend will remain relevant with a stronger emphasis on the tactical approach. During the longest month of my life, we have already seen an uptick in products that offer elderberry, acerola, and echinacea. I saw MolsonCoors recently launch a new ready-to-drink alcoholic beverage with acerola in it, Vizzy. This product gives you vitamin c, which is something we all are looking for right about now. This concept is fantastic for those of us who have been drinking more than normal during these unusual circumstances (myself included). We can now drink and feel good about it. When we enter into our “new normal”, I believe consumers are going to be looking for ingredients that offer immunity, stress relief, and overall well-being benefits.
I think we will also see a resurgence of nostalgic beverages, those which provide a high level of comfort for us. We are all incredibly stressed during this time and could all use some self-care, whether that is making a root beer float or a frozen margarita!
Savannah Turner, Associate Category Manager
The post-COVID-19 world will be an interesting one. Talk of a second wave of the virus in the fall of 2020 is disheartening, scary, and is bound to keep a lot of people on edge for months. But what we see happening next isn’t necessarily a novel trend for consumers. Health and wellness in a lot of ways will continue to drive our food and beverage markets. Whether it be from restaurant cleanliness and the food ordering process, to the boost in immunity or overall health, to the desire for meat substitutes. Consumers’ cravings will spike in the coming months as they seek better ways to keep themselves healthy.
I also think eating out and ordering in to the home will become something more robust than ever before. Restaurants will continue with online delivery services, but also keep their “to-go” menus thriving. Those restaurants that can, will continue to create experiential meal kits (those that include an online happy hour or “cook with the cook” event), not only to provide a great meal but to build bridges with customers and their communities. And easy to-go meal kits will stick around: local restaurants trying to capitalize on the popularity of “meal kit order” services like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Even Chick-Fil-A has gotten in to the mix!
In the immediate, this will continue also in part because of the lack of “packing the house” that’s going to happen – making room for social distancing will mean less people in restaurants. That will have to be offset in some way.
Ashley Kindle, Category Manager