Preparing For The Next Normal - Don't Damage Me

In this article we look at how consumers are re-framing their proactive, longer term health and wellness destiny in the mega trend Don't Damage Me which is the other half of 'optimising self' again through a COVID-19 lens where health is the new w(h)ealth.

Personal Hygiene:

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As part of the food industry, we are definitely no strangers to strict hygiene and safety standards however, the focus was previously on allergens, food expiry dates, cross-contamination and so on all still very important today. Not surprisingly, consumers are currently most concerned about the prospective spread of coronavirus and the food industry, in both the retail and restaurant sectors, must reassure them that their food is safe. The 'chain of hygiene' is extremely important; consumers want to know this is still unbroken and that their food has not been exposed to COVID-19 at any point between farm and table.

In recent guidance, the WHO stated: 'It is imperative for the food industry to reinforce personal hygiene measures and provide refresher training on food hygiene principles to eliminate or reduce the risk of food surfaces and food packaging materials becoming contaminated with the virus from food workers.'

We expect hygiene to move from an invisible given to visible asset to provide reassurance to clientele in a world where 'contact free' is comfort. We expect a new generation of COVID safe, brand aligned work wear as well as a range of symbols, marks and nudges around hygiene and in-store etiquette. Also expect greater levels of automation including no touch opening of chiller, freezers as well as doors, perhaps even hand washing in retail or restaurant spaces to make it easier to hand wash without visiting a bathroom.

Vegan Halo:

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The Vegan Society recently conducted a survey that suggested one in five in UK have actually cut down on meat consumption during lockdown. There could be a number of possible reasons for this… a couple being; the cost, meat tends to be more expensive than vegetables (although some plant-based alternatives are more expensive) and also lack of choice, meat was quick to sell out which left consumers looking for alternatives and ways of getting creative with vegetables and plants. As the threat of recession looms and financial pressures on households increase, accessible plant based and vegan foods will become key with vegetables as well as meat alternatives having equal focus.

Of course, there is also the deep-rooted ethical standpoint. The 'vegan halo' will only grow stronger in a post pandemic era where concern around animal welfare and planetary health is heightened as eating vegan is already perceived to be a more compassionate plus environmentally friendly choice.

A new halo is emerging for vegan and plant-based eating and that's the 'hygiene halo'. As attention turns to zoonotic diseases and the possibility that COVID-19 may have jumped species from animals to humans, plant based and vegan food that has had no 'animal' contact adds a new 'halo of hygiene' its list of attributes.

Whilst vegan is the halo headline, what's driving this is consumers desire to reduce meat consumption through flexitarianism or a mostly plant based diet. COVID-19 has just made this lifestyle more relevant than ever.

Body Matters:

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Health studies show that worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975. This is an astounding statistic, not least because a raised BMI is considered a major risk factor for illnesses such as, heart disease / strokes, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and some cancers. As we are now faced with a new health crisis, some scientists are researching into obesity-related conditions and whether they could impact the immune system and worsen the effects of COVID-19.

Consumers are concerned about their physical and mental wellbeing now more than ever. One of the more dominant concerns is weight management and even before the pandemic diets such as Keto were increasing in popularity and producing a portfolio of new products such as high protein ready meals, low carb snack bars and sugar free ice cream. However, today consumers are not just wanting to be 'strong or skinny', they want to support a healthy immune system by eating well, keeping fit and exercising with a 'wellness is a way of life' mantra. Remember, that overall despite the comfort eating and baking, we're more focussed on our wellbeing and many have tried new fitness and wellness practices during lockdown, so in many cases we're fitter and eating better than pre pandemic. There is an opportunity for retailers, brands and the out of home sector to continually support consumers to make the positive choice post pandemic with unique products and experiences that deliver for a heightened health aware consumer that is hot on safety as well as hygiene.

Less is More:

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There is no doubt that the huge rise in popularity of low and no-alcohol drinking was one of the biggest trends within the food & drink industry in 2019. Countless non-alcoholic spirits, low ABV wines and spirit free cocktails hit both supermarket shelves and bar menus. In particular, there has been huge innovation in the low/no ABV beer sector which has shown lots of growth potential.

However, the world then changed… liquor shops were deemed 'essential services' and newspapers reported a run on alcohol. Experts wondered whether the low/no alcohol trend was on the out but as consumers are increasingly concerned about their physical and mental health, not everyone will take comfort in alcohol. Actually, moderation, for many people, will be the path to making it though lockdown in one piece – less alcohol, less sugar, less calories. 'Less is More' is the mantra when staying fighting fit.

In this article we've highlighted the shifts that are likely to persist during and post pandemic through the lens of Don't Damage Me. In a world where 'health is the new wealth' we expect to see hygiene move from being invisible to visible and be seen as a key pillar of wellness. We expect the continued shift into animal protein reduction as plant based discovers a new 'hygiene / no animal' halo. There will be opportunity in supporting consumers with positively reducing their BMI, as the links between the ability to fight COVID-19 and obesity become more apparent. By considering these shifts 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 6 we'll be looking at the 'pleasure principle' mega trend Wondrous Nature through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic and the longer terms shifts that we expect to see manifest.

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Stay safe and keep well and we'll see you in article 6.