Disruption still felt in supermarkets due to Covid-19

To navigate the world beyond COVID-19, innovation that improves life for all rather than playing by the rules to manage risk is imperative to growth in the food and beverage industry. Speaking at the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology Convention, Kantar Australia’s head of sensory, Dr. Denise Hamblin says that “brand loyalty has been disrupted and there has never been a more important time to ensure our products are as good as they can be.”

In April, 93 per cent of Australians were unable to find their usual grocery brand or product in store. “This happened across an average of 13 grocery categories, and when it did, 9 out of 10 people chose a different brand. Where a home brand alternative was chosen, 78 per cent were ‘as satisfied’ or ‘more satisfied’.”

As product availability returns to pre-crisis levels, 3 in 10 Aussies continue to buy alternatives.

Thirty per cent of Australians surveyed as part of  Kantar’s Covid-19 barometer between May 22-26 plan to continue to buy the new brands they purchased during product shortages, with 27 per cent also continuing to shop at new stores they’ve discovered in the height of the pandemic. Over half are paying more attention to products on sale and on price.

“Ultimately, building value around the products and experiences we curate are vital in this climate.​ As concern around getting sick has reduced, the worry has increasingly turned towards the future, especially around an economic recession – and this brings more aversion to risk,” said Hamblin.

“For older Australians and those in a ‘conformity’ mindset, this may mean demand for the same brands and products for a lower price; but younger generations and those in a ‘rebellion’ mindset are more likely to try new and different things that provide better value for money.”

The coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity for brands to gain new consumers

“As we navigate our way towards a ‘new normal’ this is anticipated to continue, particularly in households with children,” says Hamblin. “In April, over half of Australians reduced their frequency in supermarket visits from an average of 2.5 to 1.7 times a week. At the same time, the propensity to shop online has increased for a third of us, with the purchase of food and beverages increasing the most of all categories.”

“This is a huge mass trial of a service,” said Hamblin. “Clearly unexpected in its widespread nature too as only just over a third of Aussies felt that grocery shopping online yielded an excellent user experience.”

Kantar’s qualitative studies also reveal the biggest pain points for online grocery shopping during the pandemic is the absence of sensorial stimulation as a motivator and for enjoyment. While an added cost at a time when price sensitivities prevail, doubt around product freshness and the inconvenience of imprecise delivery slots take strong reign. Price and provenance are also key to what brands should be thinking about to put the consumer at the heart of what they do.”

“With 57 per cent of Aussies paying more attention to homegrown products, if your product is owned, made or grown in Australia, then it’s a great time to ensure consumers know about it.”​

Forty-two per cent of Australians say they will maintain most lockdown behaviours – especially food and wellbeing

As lockdown measures began, Aussies began to cook more frequently and more often from scratch. Fresh ingredients, healthy meals and new recipes were key.​ As lockdown progressed – and has now eased – Aussies are still increasingly trying to gain consistency with eating habits.

“While the crisis has forced many to do more to look after physical and mental wellbeing, it has also beckoned us to snack more and seek out treats,” said Hamblin. “This creates new opportunities for the food and beverage industry, just in a different environment.”

Return-to-work trends also provide opportunities for the food industry to innovate

Only 57 per cent of Aussies have a return-to-work timeframe in mind given concerns about hygiene and social distancing, as well as the commute and public transport. For the food industry, this may mean less reliance on office-provided snacks and ‘on-the-go’ solutions but opens the opportunity for supporting workers to prepare their own lunches.​

“Safety is paramount, and this extends into buying products to protect ourselves – especially important to households with children. We’re seeing an increased propensity towards vitamins and supplements. This also indicates a real opportunity for food and beverage innovators to develop functional and fortified products,” said Hamblin.

“Considering the consumer’s need for more considered, purposeful activities and connections as we emerge out of isolation; along with a renewed focus on health, a desire for local, an eye for value and new confidence, shopping online will stand any brand in good stead. Brands should also pay heed to what Aussies increasingly want from them at this time – to guide the change, use their knowledge and inform. The new normal presents opportunity for brands innovating to leadership.”