Preparing For The Next Normal - Top 10 Trends Post-COVID

There will be a trade-off between people and craft, and the hygiene of contact-free. Has this crisis brought the automation and robotics of the future to the now?

Here we take a look at the top 10 trends likely to be prevalent in the COVID era world for the retail sector.

1. Clean and Safe

Customers in an anxious weary world need a safe store experience in order to give them the confidence to return again next week. The WHO affirmed in recent guidance that 'It is imperative for the food industry to reinforce personal hygiene measures, to provide refresher training on food hygiene principles [in order] to eliminate or reduce the risk of food surfaces and food packing materials becoming contaminated with the virus from food workers'.

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • New Industry Hygiene Standards and Certifications
  • Sanitising trolleys and baskets before each use, maybe using UV technology
  • Hand wash basins and sanitisers more widely available
  • Dedicated and visible cleanliness managers
  • Evolution of workwear incorporating suitable PPE
  • Automatic doors on fridges and freezers
  • Controlled number of shoppers at any one time
  • Well signed one-way shopping systems incorporating social distancing
  • Digital/physical maps of products on shelves for swift shopping
  • Visible and audible customer care
  • Renewed focus on the health and wellbeing of staff and colleagues

2. Low Contact Low Friction

Lockdowns around the world have created a need for delivery, with many pushing the button for online grocery shopping for the first time, and liking it! The combined drivers of anxiety caused by shopping in a physical store and the convenience combined with 'comparative safety' that delivery provides makes this a long-term trend.

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • Scale-up e-commerce
  • Shift space from physical stores to digital
  • Elevation of dark stores and spaces
  • Convenience storefront, dark store behind e.g. the Screw Fix model
  • Contact-free / low contact click and collect, lockers and drive-through
  • Evolution in robot and drone deliveries
  • Local collaboration of suppliers for joint deliveries
  • Local farm shop and specialist products delivered

3. Now is the Future

Technology was driving the future use of robotics and design, but that future has been brought by necessity into the now. There is a want and need for greater levels of technology enabled contactless shopping.

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • Staffless stores
  • Entry and payment via phone
  • Trolleys that automatically keep a 2m distance
  • Robots for information, in-store guidance and cleaning
  • Deli counters and coffee counters served contact free perhaps by robots
  • Real-time stock tracking so the consumer knows the product is available so no wasted trip and associated risk
  • New concept drive-through stores
  • No-touch automatic vending machines
  • Foods badged 'not touched by human hand'?
  • Tamper evident packaging
  • More dispensed products - bring your own containers into store

4. Brilliant Basics

With research suggesting that finance is a major worry to consumers globally, banks and economists are warning of the sharpest global recession on record. For the foreseeable future price and value will be a dominant factor, in an economic market where commodity prices are likely to rise in the next 18 months.

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • Opportunity for online meal planning for the entire weekly shop, for healthy meals on a budget without food waste
  • Recipe ideas within specific budget bands
  • Badging and communication of seasonal and local produce
  • Tighter core product ranges
  • Creating excitement with little touches of luxury
  • Crafted and artisanal way of justifying value
  • More entry-level products and price points
  • Creating loyalty through minimum spends, coupons and price deals

5. Home Convenience

Although lockdown restrictions will ease, and potentially tighten again, the life and work patterns of many have changed forever. Technology means we can work from home full-time or be on a rota for home/office work. The usual commuting cup of coffee, lunch on the go and afternoon desk snack has now been disrupted, creating a large opportunity for retail.

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • Great home coffee - just like your high-street favourite
  • Ready to bake and ready to eat lunch and breakfast solutions
  • More substantial cross day part snacking
  • Frozen convenience, non-traditional frozen occasions eg breakfast and lunch
  • Snacking kits/boxes to get you through the working week
  • In-home healthy snacking
  • Own brand app integrated food, wellness and fitness
  • Kitchen gadgets and equipment for professional results

6. Restaurant Quality In-home Dining

With the future of out of home uncertain, there is an opportunity for restaurant-quality meals and foods for celebrations. Even though there is a crisis, we must celebrate all occasions! Birthdays, anniversaries, lazy summers-day garden picnics, BBQ's, Friday nights, Saturday nights and even Christmas!

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • Opportunity for creating fun and excitement for at-home occasions, at a fixed price
  • Celebration cakes (sent to multiple addresses to enjoy together virtually)
  • Opportunity for restaurant-quality ready meals and take-aways
  • Dinner/party meals delivered to multiple addresses for virtual get-togethers
  • Collaboration with a variety of chefs and foodservice brands to bring the restaurant experience to the home
  • Fun treats for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks in flavour bases, ambient or frozen
  • Tablescaping - plates, glasses, accessories and props to make an elevated experience of in-home dining

7. The Home Cook

Lockdown, for some, has been a time of exploration and learning in the kitchen. Recent Instagram recipe favourites have been cheesy herb stuffed Naan, Dalgona coffee, one skillet cheesy Cuban chicken rice bake and no-bake caramel cheesecake bars! Although some consumers will struggle with their skills, others are wanting a bit of adventure (and to show it off), as everyone's skills have moved up a notch.

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • Consumers have a keener understanding of food, seasons and flavours
  • Opportunity to be the go-to brand for educating - cooking and recipes to develop the skills of the nations cooks
  • Next generation baking, meal and dessert kits
  • Pre-made and prepared items to help home cooks of all skill levels
  • Regional and seasonal recipes
  • Global ingredient adventure across chilled, ambient and frozen
  • Virtual 'travel fix' through international cuisine exploration
  • Next level cookware for the aspirational for the home chef

8. Plant-Based

One of the biggest trends of the last two years with highly compelling drivers of planetary & human health, animal welfare and a 'hygiene halo'. This trend is likely to continue to gain momentum; particularly if plant-based meat alternatives can compete with their meaty counterparts on price.

Here are some initial thought starters:

  • 'Clean halo' of plant-based foods
  • Consumers will be looking for clean label plant-based protein
  • Affordable / convenient plant-based products and meals
  • The continued relevance of diary free mylks, particularly oat and nut
  • Familiar comfort foods recreated in plant-based
  • Cracking the hard to do bakery goods and cakes plant-based
  • Vegetables and fungus cut, presented and named as 'meat'
  • Flexitarianism - great plant-based foods along with reduced but good quality meat and fish

In this article we've highlighted the top 10 trends likely to be prevalent in the COVID era world for the retail sector. Think about these shifts and how you as a business, brand, start-up or entrepreneur, adapt in consideration of them, so that you're well positioned to succeed in the next normal in food and drink.

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Stay safe, keep well and thanks for listening.