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August 5th, 2020

2020 has been a bizarre year so far. We’ve seen COVID -19 have a huge impact on society and one industry which has undoubtedly been turned on its head during the pandemic is our British Food and Drink industry.

From stockpiling to staying in becoming the new going out, the Food and Drink team here at Futures want to share a few of the key changes that we’ve noticed.


Changes In Consumer Behaviour

We immediately saw a shift in consumer habits during the first week of lockdown in March, linking to fears surrounding COVID-19. Panic buying saw shoppers stockpiling daily essentials including bread and non perishables such as dried pasta, leaving supermarket shelves bare (and an eery feeling that we were on the brink of an apocalypse). Pasta saw a 74% increase in sales across the first week of March, whilst UHT (long life) milk saw a whopping 90.7% rise in sales. We won’t even start on the famous topic of toilet roll.

Brands including Heinz and Yorkshire Tea became some of the nation’s favourites amidst lockdown. Pladis, UK manufacturer of McVitie’s and Jaffa Cakes also joined them up there announcing that biscuit sales in the UK grew by £66 million… who can resist a biscuit with their cuppa.

Online shopping for groceries also rocketed in popularity as consumers tried to minimise the risk of social contact. An easy and risk free online shopping experience is expected to have a huge impact on online FCMG sales with a prediction of double digit growth due to this change in consumer behaviour. As a nation we’ve undeniably been spending more time eating and drinking at home than anywhere else, which will see sales boost in relation to chilled and fresh foods no doubt. Public backing of British farmers also grew to a record high during the pandemic – a recent survey found that 86% of people agreed that British farming was the way forward, providing national food supply security – proving it’s not all doom and gloom.

Despite some positive changes due to consumer behaviour, we unavoidably witnessed a huge blow to the food and drink industry due to the temporary closure of our hospitality industry with all pubs, bars, coffee shops, cafes and restaurants having to grind to a halt. Despite supermarkets having their best month on record (March) as panic-buyers rushed to stockpile, unfortunately we are facing a recession: never before in world history has economic activity declined so rapidly. The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ Scheme has recently launched across the UK as part of a plan to kick start the food and hospitality sectors. The promotion offers a 50% discount to encourage people to dine out once again across the UK, aiding struggling cafes, restaurants and pubs. The UK hospitality industry was the 3rd largest employer across the UK in 2018, with 3.2 million working in the sector.


The British Bake Off

One trend we’ve noticed amidst the pandemic is Brits turning to baking. ‘Banana Bread’ became the most searched recipe on the BBC website as Instagram became flooded with 45,000 new photos of banana bread in April alone.

Flour sales soared with a 92% increase in March 2020 compared to March 2019 equating to over 2 million extra people buying flour than this time last year.


Alcohol Sales Soar – Staying In Became The New Going Out

Unsurprisingly, alcohol sales have risen by a third during the pandemic. This could be due to boredom, stress or purely as a coping mechanism for the anxiety that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. Of course over months of the pubs, bars and clubs being closed, staying in became the new going out for many: 21% of drinkers in a UK study revealed that they have been drinking more frequently since the lockdown. This equates to around 8.6 million UK adults upping their alcohol consumption. One thing that is apparent, though, is that people are steering clear of Corona beer – Coronavirus has cost the business a hefty £132 million in profit – what’s in a name? It seems for this unlucky Mexican brewery, clearly a lot.


We don’t believe we’ve seen the full extent of the impact on the food and drink industry quite yet. Although we find ourselves adjusting to a ‘new normal’ we expect some of these lifestyle changes affecting the food and drink industry to stick. Those who have found their inner Mary Berry during lockdown may continue to bake as a new passion and many may have realised that hosting friends and family in their home is more appealing than eating and going out quite as regularly.

We hope you and your families continue to stay safe and if you are looking for a new position within food and drink manufacturing our team would be happy to help.


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