"Americans have rapidly changed the ways they buy, cook and eat food in just four months, leaving everyone from farmers to restaurants unable to match their pivot.
"U.S. consumers, whose previous food preferences were stable enough that farmers could often make reliable planting decisions years in advance, have shifted their habits at a torrential pace during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes cooking more at home, buying more organic food, purchasing in bulk, forgoing brand-name treats and eating smaller meals due to fewer trips to restaurants with their often oversized portions.
"Even one of those changes by itself could throw a wrench in the global food supply chain. Add all five together, and some suppliers are finding they can’t adapt fast enough to keep pace with all the changing consumer demands. Farmers like Jack Vessey, a lettuce grower in California, have been forced to destroy crops after restaurant demand dried up, while Oreo-maker Mondelez International Inc. is cutting its product offerings by 25% to simplify logistics."
One question that remains to be answered is the degree to which these shifts will be permanent.
Bloomberg goes on:
"Almost a third of U.S. adults say they plan to cook at home even more than they do now, once stay-at-home recommendations have lifted. Home-kitchen purchases back that up: In the early weeks of the pandemic, U.S. sales of electric pasta makers grew more than five times what they were a year prior. Bread maker sales more than quadrupled, according to data from NPD Group.
"But those Americans cooking more at home aren’t pantry loading the same way they used to. More than a quarter of adults purchased items in bulk more often, according to a survey of 2,200 Americans conducted by Bloomberg News and Morning Consult. Brands have also fallen out of favor, as 23% of respondents said they purchased generic or store brands more often. In fact, 16% of Americans plan to buy private-label or bulk items even more frequently once the pandemic ends than they did before lockdowns."
- KC's View:
In a perfect world, if the coronavirus were eliminated and a vaccine were plentiful, I think people would love to re-connect to their past lives - going to theaters and restaurants and parties, and not having to be vigilant about who and how we see people. I know I would. But we live in a far from perfect world, and there is more uncertainty than certainty, and so it is virtually impossible to predict what people will or won't do, or the degree to which habits developed over the past few months will be permanent or even semi-permanent.
But here's what I do know, with some degree of confidence. Businesses and brands that have thrived because of these shifts in consumer behavior will have to work to keep those customers and sales. They cannot be complacent about it. That means continuing to work hard to be relevant and resonant about products and services, and thinking about being "essential" in every sense of that word.