For the general population and the supermarket industry in the US, entering 2021 should fill us with optimism. With all the suffering, disappointment, and uncertainty that we experienced during 2020, one could say, the new year has to be better!
However, even if the automatic and emotional reaction could be to forget and discard 2020, we would leave out various learnings and new behaviors that are very beneficial for our industry.
These teachings are not only applicable to the supermarket industry in 2021 but also for many years to come. So the optimism for 2021 is based on focusing on the following three R’s: Recover, Reevaluate, and Reinvent.
In this case, I am referring to the recovery of food consumption expenditure in households versus outside the household.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), spending on food consumed outside the home, mostly in restaurants, exceeded spending on food consumed at home for the first time in 2014.
In March 2020, monthly food sales figures according to the USDA showed that money spent on food outside the home had fallen from $67.6 billion in February to $54 billion in March, a decrease of 20%, while sales of food at home increased from $62.9 billion to $79.3 billion, or 26%.
Obviously, this unexpected impact favors the supermarket industry. The opportunity for supermarkets is to defend the portion of the budget they have earned through an attractive value proposition for consumers, relative to restaurants.
For consumers the following solutions/products could have a good effect:
• Convenience foods (Grab-and-go meals, more variety in R-T-E meals)
• Meals for two
• Meals for children
• Ethnic foods (new flavors)
• Breadth of confectionery and dessert selections
Everything indicates that restaurants will continue with certain restrictions during 2021. Meanwhile, the supermarket industry will have a good opportunity to continue recovering the food budget.
The acceleration of turning to digital media (online) to purchase food has been extraordinary since the COVID-19 crisis. According to a study by the Food Industry Association – FMI, a growth trend was already seen before the pandemic.
In 2019, online groceries accounted for 10.5% of total weekly grocery spending by U.S. consumers, but that rose to 14.5% in February and then jumped to 27.9% in March and April.
According to the study, 49% of consumers had done grocery shopping online in the last month, and 21% were going into a digital mode for the first time. By 2021, by implementing vaccines for COVID-19, consumers may be more confident about going to the stores in person or increasing the frequency of visits.
Undoubtedly the digital footprint in the U.S. supermarket industry has grown overwhelmingly and will remain from now on. To compete and be successful in such a market, the retailer is practically obliged to reassess its commercial structure from the physical store’s perspective and the online options.
In 2020, other social and political nature events also revealed trends that could impact our businesses and are worth taking into account. One of them has to do with the rediscovery and, in some cases, discovering how pleasant it is to be in a home environment.
According to the FMI study, 87% of all families consider eating together is essential, and the COVID-19 crisis has amplified that point of view. Of those surveyed, 41% report having cooked more meals since the pandemic, and 42% are minimizing trips to the store but buying more on each trip.
Multigenerational households and where young adults have had to return to their parents or relatives may offer new opportunities for the supermarket industry. Demonstrations of social justice and recent electoral results reveal that the U.S. is a country where racial and ethnic diversity is evident.
This growing diversity, especially in the younger segments of the population, indicates that we must expect an evolution in demand for products with multicultural characteristics, new flavors, and changes in the “American” palate in the future.
Although 2020 will go down in history as a nightmare that we all want to forget, let’s recap carefully because there are important lessons that may allow us to reinvent ourselves, either a lot or a little, and in this way ensure our relevance and growth.