The UK packaged food market has seen COVID-19 and efforts to curb the spread of the disease have a considerable impact on demand patterns during 2020. During the periods of lockdown, UK consumers were forced to limit their out-of-home movement in order to reduce the risks of viral transmission.
On 16 March, large gatherings in the UK were banned, people were required to cease all unnecessary travel, and forced to work from home where possible. On 17 March, travel restrictions were introduced, with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advising UK nationals against all but essential international travel.
Packaged food manufacturers have responded to the COVID-19 crisis by increasing their digital engagement, both in terms of marketing and sales. With consumers confined to their homes for much of 2020, digital media has played an increasingly important role in many areas of life, including socialising, education, work, entertainment and shopping.
Grocery retailing outlets have remained open throughout periods of lockdown and have seen a rise in packaged food sales as consumer demand has shifted from foodservice to retail. Nonetheless, with the initial panic-buying period leading to shortages of supply in traditional channels in the early phase of the pandemic and consumers proving reluctant to visit brick-and-mortar stores because of fears about contracting the COVID-19 virus and concerns about queues resulting from social distancing measures, there has been a considerable increase in sales through e-commerce.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a notable shift in demand from foodservice to retail. With foodservice operators forced to rely on takeaway and delivery services for much of the year, demand for packaged food amongst foodservice operators and consumers using foodservice channels has been hit hard.
As the threat from COVID-19 diminishes, consumers are set to return to their hectic lifestyles and resume some of the behaviours that have been suspended by measures to contain the spread of the disease. However, some of the effects of the pandemic and efforts to contain it are likely to endure.
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In packaged food we consider two aspects of food sales: 1) Retail sales. 2) Foodservice. Retail sales is defined as sales through establishments primarily engaged in the sale of fresh, packaged and prepared foods for home preparation and consumption. This excludes hotels, restaurant, cafés, duty free sales and institutional sales (canteens, prisons/jails, hospitals, army, etc). Our retail definition EXCLUDES the purchase of food products from foodservice outlets for consumption off-premises, eg impulse confectionery bought from counters of cafés/bars. This falls under foodservice sales. For foodservice, we capture all sales to foodservice outlets, regardless of whether the products are eventually consumed on-premise or off-premise. Foodservice sales is defined as sales to consumer foodservice outlets that serve the general public in a non-captive environment. Outlets include cafés/bars, FSR (full-service restaurants), fast food, 100% home delivery/takeaway, self-service cafeterias and street stalls/kiosks. Sales to semicaptive foodservice outlets are also included. This describes outlets located in leisure, travel and retail environments. 1) Retail refers to units located in retail outlets such as department stores, shopping malls, shopping centres, super/hypermarkets etc. 2) Leisure refers to units located in leisure establishments such as museums, health clubs, cinemas, theatres, theme parks and sports stadiums. 3) Travel refers to units located in based in airports, rail stations, coach stations, motorway service stations offering gas facilities etc. Beyond the scope of the foodservice research are captive foodservice units that serve captive populations around institutions such as hospitals, schools, and prisons. This is also known as institutional sales.See All of Our Definitions
This report originates from Passport, our Packaged Food research and analysis database.
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