As many producers look to the 2021 season, we need to consider how consumers have changed. There are four fundamental questions to ask as you try to determine your approach to producing and selling in 2021:
- Who are your consumers and how have they changed?
- How do consumers eat, use and cook your products?
- Why do they buy?
- Where do they buy?
Let’s explore each of these questions, keeping in mind the influences of the pandemic.
Who are they and how have they changed?
The two biggest changes are the shift in people working remotely and the migration from food service to food retail. It appears we will see the change in work habits continue through 2021 and perhaps even longer. The impact on the food service industry is different from one region to another but we know the impact will be felt in food service for some time to come.
With so many people working from home, shopping baskets and shopping patterns have changed. People are eating breakfast and lunch at home where in the past they might have grabbed something ‘on the go’ from a quick service restaurant. They are looking for ideas for these two meal occasions and probably what they are eating is different. Consider providing ideas, recipes and information to help them see your product in one of these meals if it makes sense. How about greenhouse red peppers in omelettes? Or grilled asparagus in a lunch wrap?
The shift from food service to retail is in large part coming from millennials, aged 25 to 40. Most people are eating out less but the millennial generation used to eat out the most. Consumer packaged goods companies and retailers have been trying for years to convince these consumers to shop in grocery stores. Now they are so pay attention to them. They have different needs and they also buy differently. You probably also need to help them understand how to use your product in different situations. They have the largest buying power of any generation now so it can be very beneficial to appeal to these consumers.
There are other changes you might want to consider in your specific category.
How do they eat, use and cook your products?
With people home more and looking for small indulgences during the pandemic, there might be opportunities to help consumers how to use your product differently.
Consumers are not travelling so they appreciate information to use your products in a different cuisine or with new flavours. This can be done through ideas on your packaging, display merchandisers, social media, your own email list and/or mass media. There are many options to communicate ideas. Remember there are media outlets looking for good news stories so if you can take advantage of public relations opportunities and share some tips about your product, everyone wins.
We also know there is more ‘comfort food’ being prepared. Everyone has their own definition of comfort food so once you can define that for your target market provide some ideas. As we mentioned previously millennials are doing more cooking. It is likely they do not have a collection of cookbooks. They get their ideas online so help them out and share ideas on Instagram.
Why do they buy?
Consumers used to buy a lot on price; some of that focus has changed during the pandemic. We see people more interested in where their food comes from and supporting more Canadian and local products. They will only know your story when you tell it. Although you know it well, you need to continue repeating your story and make sure consumers understand what goes into producing your products.
Where do they buy?
Shopping patterns have changed a lot during the pandemic. Concerns such as shopping safely were never an issue in Canadian food stores. Now people are paying attention to where they perceive it is safest to shop. This appears to be closer to home and in smaller stores. Although physical distancing is tougher to achieve in smaller stores, people feel ‘more comfortable’ in these stores.
In stock position has also influenced consumer’s choice of store. They do not want to make multiple trips and would prefer to get everything in one stop. Stores that struggled to maintain a good inventory position have lost ground in the market.
We also know people are buying online much more often. Prior to the pandemic we had between two and five per cent of Canadian food dollars being spent online. This has increased close to three times as the pandemic lingers on.
Suppliers should consider how their retailers are doing in this very different e-commerce environment. Some stores might offer better opportunities than others.
As you consider each of these questions for your own products think about what should be done in 2021 to maximize the opportunity you have. It is a very different environment for selling food and there is potential for producers, processors and retailers who respond to the rapidly changing environment.
WHAT’S IN STORE?
This month it isn’t really what’s in store but perhaps what influences purchases in store. Communicating with consumers can be a challenge and what you do in 2021 probably has to change from what you did in 2020. Social media platforms are evolving.
Last week in our house, my daughter was making a recipe in the kitchen. No surprise, her phone was on the counter and she was referring to it. When I inquired about the source of her recipe it was Tik Tok. I might have suggested Instagram was the place to communicate with younger generations about food. If you are trying to reach younger consumers, you have to stay current and might want to get your three-minute recipe videos on Tik Tok!