Like any other industry, the pandemic impacted the food and beverage industry. Compared to many other retail companies and other sectors like travel and tourism, the food industry has been much less impacted. Consumers still need to buy groceries during the pandemic, and even though the first months of Covid-19 put a lot of pressure on supply and logistics, most of the demand for food and beverage remained high. However, the nature of the market is shifting towards new kinds of products and behaviors. The players in the industry must adapt to those latest trends and challenges.
A first trend that emerged strongly after the beginnings of the pandemic is healthy products. The demand for foods and beverages that boost immunity has significantly increased last year. Companies are jumping on this trend expected to continue firm in the coming years. Probiotics, vegetables, and fruits like berries, spices like turmeric, botanical products, vitamins, and all products that are high in nutrients are all consumed at levels higher than ever before. Healthy dairy and plant-based products are also considered a new trend, led by soy, pea, and wheat protein. The covid pandemic made people aware of what they consume and more concerned about what they can eat to get better health against the virus.
A second trend that developed recently and the desire to consume foods better for our immune system is premiumization. People are now more ready to spend extra money on those healthy goods. Those products are, on average, more expensive than common goods, but studies revealed that people are inclined to pay more for something that is going to make them feel like they are getting exclusive, high-quality foods. The challenge for companies is to develop marketing campaigns that reflect those premium products and manage to keep their promise regarding quality. In terms of logistics and supply chain, the pressure can also be higher since those products are fresher and more perishable than processed foods.
A third trend that strongly developed during the pandemic, and linked to supply chain challenges, is the need for more transparency in the origin of products. Who makes them, where, and how are they transported? Now, the whole supply chain is in question. With covid outbreaks worldwide, people are more careful. Customer concerns put a lot of pressure on logistics professionals to develop and integrate innovative technologies at all levels of their supply chains. Transparency has now become crucial in helping customers understand and choose goods, and in a way, accept them. Invisible bar codes and multi-level scanning will become standards in food logistics, and for those who want to develop their food chains further, other technologies exist. Digital expiration date labels bring better real-time monitoring of food quality and can help with waste management. Decentralized blockchains are increasingly in use because they allow data to be added to a product information block in chronological order and make it irreversible once entered into the system. This technology makes all transactions permanently recorded and viewable to everyone. The industry shows more interest in using these technologies to increase transparency in tracking products from the farm to the consumer’s basket.
A notable change in response to the pandemic is the increase in omnichannel consumption. People have access to more options to buy and eat. Due to the closing of restaurants, 2020 has forced restaurants to bring the dine-in experience home with restaurant-branded products. People also adapted their behaviors to the challenges of the pandemic: they order prepared food, buy convenient meal solutions, and get cooking-at-home boxes. Restaurants even created hybrid options like prepared meal boxes you cook at home with their restaurant-quality sophisticated ingredients. Hence the pandemic has expanded the ways people consume foods and beverages and has put pressure on the classic wholesale supply chain due to weak demand from restaurants, bars, and cafes. Food and beverage retailers must adapt, develop, and market new distribution channels they were not using before the pandemic.
And finally, a last trend in the industry is production uncertainty, recently caused by lockdowns and restrictions that put pressure on international supply chains. Food shortages and distribution disruptions had been common last year, and one aftereffect was panic buying. Panic buying was a challenge, and companies realized they need very efficient and reliable supply chain technologies to plan and respond to this changing demand. Players in the industry must rely on a good network of trading partners and proactive technologies to stay ahead of the curve.
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