Another year, another lockdown. And while the start of a new year may have initially brought some vaccine-fuelled cheer, it’s become quickly apparent that those of us in food and drink are going to be facing a new set of challenges for some time to come.
But is it all doom and gloom for brand owners? And are there any reasons for optimism among the chaos?
We think there are. For following 12 months unlike any other, I’m sure we’re not the only producer to have assembled some interesting insights about what shoppers really want during lockdown – particularly when effectively cut off from their favourite pubs, restaurants and coffee shops.
For if we’ve learnt anything from the past year, it’s that when the British public are instructed to stay at home, grocery sales soar. Kantar recently revealed shoppers spent a record £11.7bn on take-home groceries in December. And despite financial uncertainty putting pressure on an increasing number of households, we can expect spending to remain high over the coming months.
So, with this latest lockdown comes an inevitable challenge – to engage with the many shoppers craving a bit of novelty for their trolley. Encouraging shoppers to consider new categories and products could open up a raft of new possibilities as people look to brand owners and retailers to inspire them.
We’ve seen the pandemic press fast-forward on the evolution of trends and behaviours, shifting the consumer psyche at lightning speed and, in a matter of weeks, bringing about the significant changes we would have expected to see over months, if not years, pre-Covid.
So there really is no better time than right now for brands and retailers to get serious about appealing to new shoppers.
In the world of alcoholic drinks, this has often included motivating shoppers to maintain their on-trade habits and helping them to recreate out-of-home style experiences in the comfort of their own homes.
Take, for example, the legions of shoppers buying into crafted cider. Sales are currently up 47% year on year [IRI 52 w/e 5 December 2020). As more and more shoppers seek premium, crafted propositions during enforced time at home, we expect this to have a positive impact on the market at large longer term.
This has been great news for brands in this space, and our own experience indicates producers operating in crafted cider are well placed to exploit these trends in both the retail and pub trade (circumstances permitting).
Similar opportunities are sure to exist for other brand owners across many categories, whether it’s adding an exciting new element to the summer barbecue or focusing on those out-of-home trends that were showing so much promise prior to a year of uncertainty and struggle.
What’s also certain is that maintaining the status quo is unlikely to bring success.
The food and drink landscape is constantly changing, and that’s probably never been more true than right now. So, we all need to make sure we’re giving shoppers what they really want – now more than ever.