What are the challenges for food brands in 2021?

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Recently, we hosted a webinar in France with top food brands to discuss the topic “Are FMCG the winners of the lockdown?” Our guests Catherine Jordy, Digital Retail Manager France at Bonduelle, and Charlotte Flottes, Marketing Director at Foods International (Twinings) analysed the changes and new challenges in the agri-food sector following the pandemic. Take a look at the key insights:

Similar trends during the two lockdowns 

With the first lockdown, the unprecedented situation and the fear of shortages pushed consumers to store long-life goods (frozen, canned) and to turn to comforting products. At the same time, the categories of delicatessen products and ready meals have completely shifted as the French have been encouraged to work from home as much as possible. 

During the second lockdown, the same trends were observed but to a lesser extent

“Even though we saw a rise in stockpiling over the 10 days leading up to the second lockdown, consumers continued to go to stores more frequently. They were less afraid of shortages and felt less the need to stockpile. ” Catherine Jordy, Digital Retail Manager France of Bonduelle

On the other hand, the markets that benefited the most from the confinements (frozen food, wellbeing products) recovered much faster during the second confinement, reaching almost normal trends even though the restrictions had yet to ease.

New consumer trends

The pandemic has accelerated consumer trends that were already very present, particularly on health and immunity issues. Consumers are more inclined to consume products that are good for their health and with shortened ingredient lists. In addition, since consumers have been deprived of going out and seeing their loved ones, food has become a safe haven, a trend that is likely to continue in 2021.

The lockdown was also an opportunity for many French people to take the time to eat better and cook more. They took the opportunity to turn to raw products (meat, vegetables, etc.) and preferably local. 

“The current trend of sustainable consumption has been further strengthened during lockdown but consumers will have to make a trade-off between ethical but more expensive products.” Charlotte Flottes, Marketing and Communication Director of Foods International 

While the concepts of proximity and product quality remain important, their importance will be more or less gauged by the crisis. 

Is digital an effective shield in the face of the crisis? 

Digital has proven to be a powerful lever for brands to rethink the distribution of their products and get closer to their communities, provided they are mature enough in their digital strategy. 

In theory, the digital drive boomed from the first lockdown, which has experienced some pitfalls, however, risks stagnating in terms of the quality of the shopping experience.

“The online grocery shopping consumer experience was not very positive during the lockdown because of the high traffic volumes. On the other hand, consumers still like to shop in stores, which may limit their use of online platforms.” Charlotte Flottes, Marketing and Communication Director of Foods International 

The use of online platforms for shopping risks leveling off as long as the issues of product sales and promotion have not been explored in depth.

In addition, confinement was a good time for everyone to seek inspiration and advice on various social networks. The youngest, who represent the consumers of tomorrow, took advantage of this period to investigate new platforms and discover new forms of content. Even the oldest audiences have made a technological leap this year and have incorporated digital into their daily practices. 

“All generations will continue to be inspired by social networks. Brands need to address their different communities on the platforms on which they are present.” Catherine Jordy, Digital Retail Manager France of Bonduelle

Brands have the challenge to reach all their communities, from the youngest to the oldest, with the right message and on the right platforms. This raises the question of which platforms to invest in (Instagram, Tiktok, Twitch, etc.) to speak to all audiences. From a strategic point of view, this requires having a well-functioning editorial line, with defined brand missions and key messages ready to be as reactive as possible and have an impact on its target audience.

The pandemic will have had the effect of accelerating the omnichannel needs of consumers and will have repercussions on the entire ecosystem. Addressing their communities with the right message and on the right platforms is a key challenge for brands in 2021.

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