By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (www.kalkine.co.uk)
Covid has changed much about how we socialise, how we eat, and even how we go about doing business.There is a lot of focus now on what we eat. Nutrition has suddenly become very important.
There is more awareness on how junk food does very little in providing the body with adequate immunity. Immunity is the most talked about topic of recent times. Immunity boosting foods are the flavour of the season.
HOW HAS CONSUMER BEHAVIOUR CHANGED?
More and more people are trying to engage with food that does its basic function – providing the body with necessary ammunition against viruses and bacteria. Food is now as important a component of daily life as is work.
The pandemic has shifted the world towards what is local more than any hyper-nationalist movement ever could. People have been exposed more to food items or ingredients that could be sourced locally during these times, much more than pre-Covid times. As movement got severely restricted, more and more people had to rely on and do with whatever was available nearest to them.
This has also opened up the scope for innovation in the food business. More so at a time when restaurants, cafes, and pubs are being hammered due to restrictions and curbs. As consumer behaviour got more localised, consumers explored products that used to get exported to the EU previously.A great example is a seafood, where businesses started targeting the UK markets with a model that caters directly to consumers.
Changing food habits now mean that more and more people are eating fruits and greens. A survey conduct- ed by the Institute of Grocery Distribution has found that 51 per cent of those surveyed are now eating more fruits and vegetables than they were before the lockdowns.There was also an increase seen in people adhering to mealtimes more strictly and cutting down meats.
CONSUMER TRUST IS KEY
It’s not just Covid that has made people more aware.The threat of climate change is also making people pay a premium on ethical businesses. A place like Scotland, for example, with its strong agricultural sector, would be able to grow raw materials locally, bringing down carbon impact on each product. Awareness around the discontinuation of plastic has led to innovation in the food packaging industry.
In order to usher in a new dawn of innovation in the food and drink sector, it is also necessary that there are enough skilled resources available so that innovation can be carried out. But the key challenge that plagues innovation in this sector is an acute shortage of staff. Businesses would require a robust mix of people to create, convert, and then market to the end consumer.
Reliance and adapting to digital technology can help in managing supply chain disruptions through the use of analytics and forecasting to understand businesses and performances better. Adoption of blockchain technology tracking the raw materials used in creating food and every other aspect of the production process could be used to give consumers a glimpse of the kind of products being used, thereby earning their trust in a post Covid world.
For businesses from the hospitality sector to flourish in a post Covid world, it would need them to imagine the world in a new way. Innovation with healthier ingredients and adopting hygienic techniques of production is key to the sector’s turnaround. But what is most important is winning back the trust of consumers ravaged by a pandemic. Only innovation and increased digital adaption could be the way forward for the sector.