Coronavirus (COVID-19) has had an unprecedented impact on food and nutrition, an industry that was already in a continuous pattern of change. Through extensive worldwide research, a series of Strategic Themes reshaping the global market had previously been identified; in this report those themes are assessed to see how they have been impacted by the pandemic, indicating how consumer concerns and behaviour have shifted in terms of food and nutrition.
The overriding impact of COVID-19 on food and nutrition has been the shift of meal occasions into the home, driving up food purchased. Alongside this have come greater considerations of health, reduced consumer mobility, shifting channel use and a global recession. All have had significant implications for food and nutrition’s Strategic Themes.
Most of the food and nutrition hot topics (the building blocks of the Strategic Themes) have been accelerated by COVID-19’s impact, with the result that the Themes themselves have followed suit. For example, the pandemic has accelerated the Back to Local and Return to Roots hot topics, while decelerating The Internationalisation of Food. So overall the Strategic Theme of Food Provenance and the Country of Origin Effect has accelerated.
Some hot topics across the food and nutrition Strategic Themes are judged to have felt no overall impact. This does not necessarily indicate they are untouched - rather it can show they are experiencing both positive and negative effects. For example, a hot topic centred around interest in a premium foodstuff may be boosted by those who are now looking for healthier options, but losing out from those eschewing higher-priced items in the teeth of the global recession.
With the pandemic generally increasing consumers’ engagement with food, there are few hot topics within the Strategic Themes that have undergone very strong negative impact. One exception is the Plastic-Free Future hot topic, where the pandemic has paused progress. Plastic has been re-embraced across food and by consumers eager to reduce the possibility of infection.
While a vaccine should mean life under COVID-19 changes, when and to what degree remain open questions. More certain is the ongoing negative economic impact, and the fact that health will remain front of mind - thus themes/hot topics in food and nutrition influenced by these factors are likely to be affected for some time.
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