Preparing For The Next Normal - Conscious Consumption

Our purpose has always been to shape a better future and as experts in trend foresight, we're very clear in our role to support the industry by helping shift the future of food and drink by harnessing the power of trends – and to that end we're beginning today, a series of 12 articles with accompanying subscriber, blog and video content that examine the longer term impact on food and drink and the future foresight horizon, as a result of COVID-19.

In this first article we look at even more conscious consumption, the re-definition of our food systems and re-invented supply chains

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Even more conscious consumption:

More than ever, food is playing an integral part in consumers day to day lives. There has been a loss in regular routines and mealtimes are increasingly fundamental in bringing structure, definition, joy and anticipation to the day. In a quest to 'control the things we can control' and form human connection in a world where this is sparse, it's no surprise that consumers are increasingly interested in delving further into the food chain and how food gets from farm to plate.

Being part of a community and engaging with a local food community not only brings the benefits of basic supply and availability but the positive choice gives us the dopamine hit of supporting local, human and community based businesses that drives the all important craved human connection.

Once the domain of the distress purchase, local shops and stores are often well stocked, ready to serve their communities, meaning that the convenience store network is an increasingly important part of the food supply chain.

There couldn't be a more important time to be clear about your purpose, as consumers make positive choices about supporting businesses that they respect and align with their personal values in the fight for survival. Sustainability, for instance, will continue to be important to consumers, yet those who have become more price sensitive or concerned about hygiene may favour single-use packaging, we'll see?

We fully expect there to be a bright light shone on ethical food consumption and animal welfare in a post pandemic world that will closely examine the link between animal health and welfare in the context of human health and welfare.

Food System Revolution:

As we know, traditional food systems were already being redefined before the global crisis, however, now that evolution has sparked revolution and taken on a new form, this is moving at breakneck speed. For instance, shopping locally and supporting small businesses was growing in popularity but now these are not just deemed a worthy and trendy option, they are essential. Small businesses in many cases are being overwhelmed with volume as they become well versed to using virtual and contactless platforms.

Going local…delivered! Not only does going local feel good and support immediate communities, in many cases small is agile and convenient. As local food and drink business collaborate to offer delivery and, in some cases, same day – hyper local and hyper convenient!

Takeaway and delivery was already defining out of home, the demand for online ordering, frictionless delivery and collection has seen retail scramble to increase capacity. This taste of 'enforced friction free' whether this be a food grocery delivery or a restaurant meal to your home means that some may never return to the pre pandemic ways. Also, in the medium term, we expect shoppers and diners to prefer the "safe" experience of shopping / ordering online to the prospect of shopping or eating in comparatively 'crowded' spaces. As such, the competitive space is likely to be 'safe, local delivered'. As a restaurant that delivers, the competition may not be another restaurant but instead a supermarket convenience meal. What's clear is that understanding the needs and wants of the 'local' demographic is key, what does the 'local consumer' want to eat and drink at home for both retailers and restaurateurs alike.

There is a new respect recognition that the people who service our need for food and drink, not just the companies themselves, are integral to the function of society and in fact 'food workers are key workers' and should be treated and rewarded as such.

Re-invented Supply Chains:

Out of home outlets were forced to close at such short notice, how consumers buy food virtually changed overnight. Supermarket shelves were stripped bare of essential goods which lead to a conundrum at both ends of the food supply spectrum – in the absence of usual go-to's, consumers wondered where and how they are were going to source their food whilst farmers, producers and wholesalers had to re-think their contingency plans. Almost overnight links in the supply chain were dropped, democratising the food and drink supply chain… maybe forever.

As restaurants, cafes, hotels and bars shuttered at breakneck speed, this drove essential and immediate challenges to supply chain norms. Wholesalers suddenly found themselves with an abundance of stock but no orders. This crisis has driven innovation that has seen direct to consumer selling and home delivery. Those with the route to market (home) and the delivery mechanic (the wheels) have an opportunity to win.

We're also seeing a democratisation of the food system whereby the freshness, quality and varietal choice that was once just the preserve of high-end chefs now finds itself on the doorsteps of home cooks around the world. Natoora, who serve chefs in London, Paris and LA are calling it a 'food revolution'.

Once the largely invisible engine room of global supply chain, the farmer, fisherman and butcher are re-inventing themselves with a new found 'power', driven by a survival instinct, with the help of online platforms to connect directly to consumers. Some farmers are taking things a step further with farm share subscriptions for purchase.

In this article we've highlighted the trends that are likely to persist post pandemic – even more conscious consumption, food system revolution and re-invented supply chains. By considering these trends and how you as a business, brand, start-up or entrepreneur, pivot and adapt in consideration of them, will mean that you're well positioned to succeed in the next normal in food and drink.

In article 2 we'll be looking at our food Eco System through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic and the longer terms shifts that we expect to see manifest.

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