business news in context, analysis with attitude

From the Washington Post, a story this morning about how "the novel coronavirus has changed how Americans buy groceries. The pandemic has altered what products people purchase, when and where, who is buying them, and how much time is devoted to the endeavor.

"Americans are spending more, yet increasingly they are being offered fewer choices, both online and in person, slowing a years-long trend toward innovations that put 'good for you' and 'environmentally friendly' spins on established and much-loved products … The winnowing — what one expert calls a 'Sovietish' reduction of choice — is also solidifying eating patterns, for good or for ill. With customers’ selections reinforced by online advertising, repeat ordering and other algorithms, the food system is becoming bifurcated as consumers who have expressed enthusiasm for healthful or artisanal foods are offered more of the same, while those with a penchant for highly processed comfort foods are inundated with opportunities to restock."

The Post writes that "the monthly grocery bill for the average American household spiked to $525 in March, up 30 percent over March 2019, according to census data, as dollars pivoted from restaurant meals to home and people snapped up items in bulk. By July it had settled to about $455 a month, still up 10 percent over the same month last year."

KC's View:

And that doesn't even include the wine and vodka bill.

(Did I say that out loud?)

I do think it is interesting to see how negative feelings about so-called "big food" have been scaled back by the realities of the pandemic.  But I also believe that it would be a mistake to underestimate the aspirational nature of the American public … people  are going to continue to want things that are new and better and innovative.

To think otherwise is the same as saying that people who move out of the city to the country are turning their backs on what cities have to offer;  in fact, they are going to want the communities to which they are moving to offer more and better features that meet their needs and wants.

The problem, of course, is breaking through.  That's the challenge.

The Post writes that "new products and start-up food businesses may be in trouble. And with many trial-balloon opportunities nixed during the pandemic - trade shows like the Fancy Food Show or the Natural Products Expo West have been canceled, along with sports and music events - there are fewer forums for debuting a product and persuading retailers to buy in."

All true.  But like Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park

The retailers that always have focused on finding new and interesting food products to offer their shoppers will continue to do so.

Sure, center store may become more commoditized, with those sales shifting to online.  But that will leave more room on a growing perimeter to innovate and push boundaries, which I completely believe will work if it is effectively communicated to shoppers.   You've got to tell them the story!