Preparing for the next normal – ‘Don’t Damage Me’
The coronavirus pandemic is swiftly changing our behaviours and concerns – UK trend analysts, The Food People, unravel what they see as an over-arching consumer issue: ‘Don’t Damage Me…’
The food industry is definitely no stranger to strict hygiene and safety standards, with the focus previously on allergens, food expiry dates, cross-contamination and so on – and all still very important today.
Not surprisingly, consumers are currently most concerned about the prospective spread of coronavirus in all sectors of the food industry; they want reassurance that their food is safe. The ‘chain of hygiene’ is extremely important; consumers want to know this is still unbroken and that their food has not been exposed to COVID-19 at any point between farm and table.
We expect hygiene to move from an ‘invisible given to visible asset‘ to provide reassurance to clientele in a world where ‘contact free’ is comfort.
We expect a new generation of COVID-safe, brand-aligned workwear, as well as a range of symbols, marks and nudges around hygiene and in-store etiquette.
Also expect greater levels of automation including no-touch opening of chiller, freezers as well as doors, perhaps even hand washing in retail or restaurant spaces to make it easier to hand wash without visiting a bathroom.
The Vegan Society recently conducted a survey that suggested one in five in UK have actually cut down on meat consumption during lockdown. There could be a number of possible reasons for this; cost, meat tends to be more expensive than vegetables (although some plant-based alternatives are more expensive); and also lack of choice, meat was quick to sell out which left consumers looking for alternatives and ways of getting creative with vegetables and plants.
As the threat of recession looms and financial pressures on households increase, accessible plant based and vegan foods will become key with vegetables as well as meat alternatives having equal focus.
Of course, there is also the deep-rooted ethical standpoint. The ‘vegan halo’ will only grow stronger in a post-pandemic era where concern around animal welfare and planetary health is heightened – as eating vegan is already perceived to be a more compassionate plus environmentally-friendly choice.
BUT a new halo is emerging for vegan and plant-based eating and that’s the ‘hygiene halo’. As attention turns to zoonotic diseases and the possibility that COVID-19 may have jumped species from animals to humans, plant-based and vegan food that has had no ‘animal’ contact adds a new ‘halo of hygiene’ its list of attributes.
Whilst vegan is the halo headline, what’s driving this is consumers’ desire to reduce meat consumption through flexitarianism or a mostly plant-based diet. COVID-19 has just made this lifestyle more relevant than ever.
Health studies show that worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. This is an astounding statistic, not least because a raised BMI is considered a major risk factor for illnesses such as, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and some cancers.
As we are now faced with a new health crisis, some scientists are researching into obesity-related conditions and whether they could impact the immune system and worsen the effects of COVID-19.
Consumers are concerned about their physical and mental well-being now more than ever. One of the more dominant concerns is weight management and even before the pandemic diets such as Keto were increasing in popularity and producing a portfolio of new products such as high-protein ready meals, low-carb snack bars and sugar-free ice cream.
However, today consumers are not just wanting to be ‘strong or skinny’, they want to support a healthy immune system by eating well, keeping fit and exercising with a ‘wellness is a way of life’ mantra.
Remember, that overall despite the comfort eating and baking, we’re more focused on our well-being and many have tried new fitness and wellness practices during lockdown, so in many cases we’re fitter and eating better than pre-pandemic.
There is an opportunity for retailers, brands and the out-of-home sector to continually support consumers to make positive choices post pandemic – with unique products and experiences that deliver for a heightened health-aware consumer.
Less is more:
There is no doubt that the huge rise in popularity of low and no-alcohol drinking was one of the biggest trends within the food & drink industry in 2019.
Countless non-alcoholic spirits, low-ABV wines and spirit-free cocktails hit both supermarket shelves and bar menus. In particular, there has been huge innovation in the low/no-ABV beer sector which has shown lots of growth potential.
However, the world then changed… liquor shops were deemed ‘essential services’ [Not in SA!] and newspapers reported a run on alcohol. Experts wondered whether the low/no-alcohol trend was on the out, but as consumers are increasingly concerned about their physical and mental health, not everyone will take comfort in alcohol.
Actually, moderation, for many people, will be the path to making it though lockdown in one piece – less alcohol, less sugar, fewer calories. ‘Less is More’ is the mantra when staying fighting fit.
In this article we’ve highlighted the shifts that are likely to persist during and post pandemic through the lens of Don’t Damage Me.
In a world where ‘health is the new wealth’ we expect to see hygiene move from being invisible to visible and be seen as a key pillar of wellness. We expect the continued shift into animal protein reduction as plant based discovers a new ‘hygiene / no animal’ halo.
There will be opportunity in supporting consumers with positively reducing their BMI, as the links between the ability to fight COVID-19 and obesity become more apparent.
By considering these shifts and how you as a business, brand, start-up or entrepreneur, pivot and adapt in consideration of them, will mean that you’re well positioned to succeed in the next normal in food and drink.