April 8, 2020

How will COVID-19 change consumer trends in 2020?

By Jeanine Moyer

AdFarm checked in with our Nourish Network partner Jo-Ann McArthur of Nourish Food Marketing to take a pulse on how COVID-19 is impacting consumer food consumption and forecast trends that may emerge as a result.

Different distribution

The growth of community-supported agriculture food boxes, spending food dollars at local restaurants and craft breweries or distilleries is already being seen as Canadians are staying home or forced to shop closer to home. “Flexibility has been key for many businesses who have shifted business from storefront to online,” notes McArthur. This change in process has been felt by everyone along the food supply chain, and when we are all able to return to normal, even that will change.

“Preferences and priorities have shifted, and while interim measures will see the return of a more familiar shopping and food distribution system, it’s unlikely consumers will return to the way things were.”

The return of the milkman?

The necessity of home food and grocery delivery during COVID-19 harkens back to the days of the milkman. Or maybe it’s just foreshadowing of a new reality.

Boomers who once resisted online ordering have been forced to move to online ordering as they isolate themselves for health and safety reasons. “Maybe we’ll see specialized food delivery trucks drive through neighbourhoods with items that consumers want to pick out for themselves to supplement some of the online ordering,” says McArthur. “Or we could see more pop-up farmers’ markets in urban centres.”

What’s next?

“Great innovation comes from disruption,” says McArthur, who is certain something new will come out of this situation.

She looks back to the SARS outbreak that surfaced in early 2000 and the resulting growth of Alibaba.com, an online shopping portal in Asia. Like today’s situation, residents isolated themselves during SARS and began ordering household and grocery items online, many of them for the first time. “The result was the adoption of e-commerce in everyday lives for everyday items and we could see the same trend here in Canada,” notes McArthur.

“Whatever happens, this is a good time to be in the food business. The preference and popularity of Canadian food is going to go through the roof,” says McArthur. “The local, community-focused consumer trend, whether in person or online, is going to focus on local, Canadian-produced food.”

Jeanine Moyer is a Senior PR & Content Specialist at AdFarm. She is a seventh generation Ontario farmer who is passionate about anything to do with food and farming.