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Pandemic Paves Way for Prominent Changes in Consumer Trends

It was a windy day in July in South Africa. The nippy cold weather made Annika crave a cup of hot chocolate with some marshmallow’s dipped in it! “Oh! How lovely would it be to just sit and relish a warm drink in this cold weather!” she thought.

She looked outside the window and reminisced about what normal life looked like before Covid-19 changed everyone’s lives. The new normal – social distancing, wearing of masks, avoidance of public spaces and of course working from home – Covid-19 has changed the way we live.

Pre-covid, Annika would not hesitate in indulging in a warm sugar loaded drink topped with a marshmallow or two! But the emergence of Covid-19 has brought with it great emphasis on healthy eating to boost immunity. Even someone as carefree as Annika has become more conscious about her eating habits. Annika is not the only one who has gone through a change in mindset during these lockdowns. Globally there has been a change in consumer patterns.

The fact that mortality rates from Covid-19 are higher in people with obesity and underlying health issues like diabetes has made people more conscious of their food choices. Around the world, just like in South Africa, consumers are spending more on fruit and vegetables for health. Fitch Solutions projects an increase of 7.3% in spending of fruit and vegetables over the period of 2020-2024 as a percentage of overall household spend.

While fruit and vegetable spend sees an upward trend, the spend on sugar and confectionery is expected to see stagnated growth of 5.9% annually. The long-lasting ill effects of sugar consumption are now magnified due to Covid-19 and contribute to the drop in its demand globally.

In South Africa, prices of poultry and meat dropped by 10% during the lockdown (Ref: Poultry Quarterly Q3 2020: Fragile Recovery After Covid-19 Storm-Rabobank Research).With the closure of restaurants and restriction on social events, the current supply of meat and poultry is much higher than the demand. Various theories regarding the spread of Covid-19 made consumers across the globe sceptical about the consumption of meat and poultry.  It is estimated that for the first time the demand for fruits and vegetables will overtake demand for meat and poultry globally.

Interestingly, the lockdown period also witnessed higher retail demand for plant-based protein as an alternate to meat consumption.

A similar downward trend is seen in the consumption of non-alcoholic drinks or carbonated soft drinks. Fitch Solutions projects a growth of 4.5% for carbonated drinks whereas spending on mineral and spring water will see the quickest growth at 5.2% of overall household spend by 2024.

Another noticeable change in consumer behaviour is the demand for organic produce. The belief that there is a higher nutrient value in organic food makes people consider it a healthier option than non-organic food. The demand for organic produce is being encouraged by retail distribution channels as well. For example, internet retailer in South Africa – Faithful to Nature offers a range of natural and organic food and drink with free delivery on orders above a certain value (Ref: Passport, Food and Drink E-Commerce in South Africa-Analysis Report, 2020).

The fear of contracting Covid-19 has also resulted in an increased spend on dietary supplements and vitamins in order to boost immunity. A consumer research done well into the pandemic saw a high percentage of 63% of the respondents with a renewed focus on dietary changed – taking supplements, implementing plant based food options and restricting certain food groups (Ref: PwC, Global Consumer Insights Survey, 2020) Hence medical companies across countries have expressed an intention to increase production of vitamins due to higher demand. With consumers trying out different brands of vitamins and supplements during lockdowns, they are more likely to have formed a purchase pattern which will stay after the infection recedes.

With Fitch projecting a drop of 3.7% in the global economy for the year 2020, we are staring at a much deeper impact than the financial recession or crisis in 2009 which saw a drop of 0.5%. This drastic fall in the economy will see a steep rise in unemployment. These numbers have had a deep impact on urban consumers. PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey 2020 shows that 40% of respondents reported a decrease in income as a result of job loss or redundancy. These financial changes will make price and affordability the other influencing factors in consumer purchasing trends.

An important trend noticed during forced lockdowns has been the surge in e-commerce. In developed markets, the elderly population appeared to adapt to the use of e-commerce for procuring essentials. Trends like these continue to remain in countries where lockdowns have been eased. Furthermore, the lower footfall in brick and mortar stores in countries despite easing of lockdowns are complemented by sustained growth in e-commerce. Globally online grocery shopping activity after the outbreak of Covid-19 saw 63% consumers buying groceries online and 86% of consumers are likely to continue to shop online after relaxation of lockdowns (Ref: -PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey 2020).

The prominent changes in consumer behaviour during the pandemic are expected to remain after the easing of lockdowns. With a greater level of digitalisation, consumers would opt for more convenient ways of shopping as per the new normal established during these lockdowns.  Even after Covid-19 recedes, we expect the change in consumer behaviour to become a way of life!

2 thoughts on “Pandemic Paves Way for Prominent Changes in Consumer Trends”

  1. Narisha Maduray

    This is an insightful piece and so timely! I can’t wait to hear more about this visionary company helping us adjust to the new normal.

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