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What are the long-term effects of the Corona Virus on the Food and Drink industry?

Most of us will have changed something about the way we conduct our grocery shop in recent weeks. Whether that’s due to shortages in certain products leading to a switch of brand, long queues prompting a trip to a different supermarket / local convenience store or driven by a desire to change our diet in some way.

Practicalities have been a key driver of choice, pushing up sales of ambient and frozen food. Most of us claimed not to have actively stockpiled but we’ve all seen the bare shelves.

There is an expectation that Health has nudged up the list of priorities when it comes to deciding what we eat. Who wouldn’t want to try to boost their immune system considering recent events? But there have been reports of an increase in sales of alcohol, snacks, treats and convenience products; classic comfort food to soothe our souls at a time of heightened anxiety.

More time in the house has inevitably increased the time we have to spend on planning what to eat, cooking more from scratch and trialling different recipes. Early signs from our Behaviour Change Index also shows an increase in the numbers home-baking.

Concerns over the economy will inevitably tighten budgets in the longer term but for now food and drink remain a tangible pleasure at a time when we have little else to spend our money on. If we can’t eat out or go on holiday, we can at least treat ourselves to a bottle of wine or a premium ready meal.

But what does this all mean for our food industry in the longer term?

Health is likely to remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds for some time. Concerns over future infection risk could increase interest in immune boosters and ‘feel good’ foods.

Now more than ever is the time for canned and frozen food to shine, given we are likely to have tried a wider range of such products in the lock-down.

Food sourcing and ingredient provenance currently rivals ethical/environmentally friendly packaging and reassurance is key to future on-pack messaging.

NPD teams can get inventive with new and exciting flavours. We’ve been experimenting in the kitchen and will be craving something different.

Familiar brands can do well at times of upheaval but brand switching can erode loyalty, so now is the time to evaluate and advertise quality credentials.

A focus on Quality Benchmarking will help highlight this advantage. As will exciting new product development to help brands stand out from the crowd. We can help with both*.

*Cambridge MR has over 35 years’ experience in food and drink research. Our Neighbourhood Net allows us to find out exactly how consumers are reacting to these unprecedented times. Meanwhile watch out for our upcoming Infographic as we publish key findings from our ongoing Behaviour Tracker.

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