Smit and his team have been working on the research during the summer and released findings to the industry this month in a 13-page presentation: ‘Consumer Responses Post-Lockdown’.
The research, which started in April is, of course, published during the ‘post lockdown’ phase, but with global infections worldwide standing at 33 million and rising, and global deaths from the coronavirus passing the one million mark this week, scientists are still no nearer to eradicating its spread.
The Consumer Responses Post Lockdown paper
Barry Callebaut says, while conducting its research to understand how consumers behave during the coronavirus pandemic and to learn what kind of implications and opportunities this has on the market, it used a broad range of sources including: Bain|BCG| Dataessential | Euromonitor | Foresight Factory | Global Data | HBR | Innova | Ipsos | IRI | Kantar | McKinsey | Mintel | Stylus | WGSN, among others.
All this makes for a confusing and worrying time in all areas of life as we try and make sense of latest government and scientific advice. In the food and drink sector, businesses are having to cope with constant new demands and restrictions from the authorities, while trying to keep consumers happy with a semblance of ‘normality’.
Barry Callebaut’s research is aimed at its own customers, but is also available to the confectionery industry in general, and is designed to help them navigate the current situation - and crucially plan for the future.
The Covid-19 crisis is broken down into three phases: Lockdown, Post Lockdown, Future, and the paper focuses on the Post Lockdown phase, which the Barry Callebaut marketing team has analyzed to determine the impact this current phase will have on consumer behavior, now and going forward.
Barry Callebaut said it looked at key drivers in the food and drink sector in general including: Health & Hygiene, Financial Scrutiny, Grocery Shopping, Hospitality & Artisans, Digital Living and Travel & Holidays – and how they will be impacted differently by three different categories of consumers.
Even with governmental restrictions still in place, consumers feel the worst is behind them. However, they are still bound at home or are not free to do everything they would like to.
After the lockdowns, consumers are happy to return to a ‘new normal’ life. They are confident in the future and want to compensate for the lost time.
Regardless of governmental restrictions, consumers are still carrying the weight and stress of the crisis. They are stressed about the virus and its consequences.
In its research, Barry Callebaut says there are many different opportunities for customers that present themselves for each bird, no bird is better than the other and there are opportunities for all birds.
‘It is important for our customers and ourselves to keep these three profiles in mind, to take all of their needs and behavior into account’, it says in the report.
Speaking from his home in Switzerland via video, Smit says to keep the research relevant to a constantly changing situation and environment, he imagined the consumer birds as different birds flying around different countries.
For example, the caged bird feels like they are still living in a locked down society. They rely on digital channels to communicate with and feel near to others. Yet they would prefer to do this IRL (In Real Life) but that is not/less possible because of the governmental restrictions. Wellbeing is a top concern for these types of consumers who are coping with the mental and physical challenges of restrictions.
Free birds, after lockdowns, are happy to return to a ‘new normal’ life. They are confident in the future and want to compensate for the lost time … and will go on a revenge spending spree to indulge and dine out.
Regardless of governmental restrictions, anxious birds are still carrying the weight and stress of the crisis. They are stressed about the virus and its consequences.
An anxious bird would say “Regardless if the government imposes strict measures or not, I am still very anxious about how to live life today.” These types of consumers are more likely to eat comfort food and are prone to pantry stocking and home cocooning, for example.
The consumer of tomorrow
Smit says the research opens up a detailed profile of each type of bird or consumer and the Barry Callebaut team is busy preparing not only for today’s needs but for the consumer of tomorrow.
He says “nurture my nature” will become a key phrase of the future where the themes of personal and environmental health, which has long been a factor of the Gen X generation (defined as adults age 40 to 55 years old in 2003), will become increasingly important across all ages.
“This will have implications on how brands should communicate in future. We live in an era governed by scientists, the voice of marketeer used to be more visible than the scientists, but we can only win over the virus if we understand the virus and respond to the virus based on the science and on the data,” says Smit.
“In the future, brands will have to make clear what they are made from, where they are made from and how they are made so consumers can decide from end to end if it is a product they would like to buy.”
Post Covid-19, indulgence will be redefined, says Smit. Consumer demands mean it will always need to be tasty but it will also need a better nutritional profile or the industry will risk legislation …. restrictions by governments on advertising, for example.
He compares the shift in conscience in confectionery to what is happening now in the auto industry, with the phasing out of fossil fuels and a move to more cleaner, environmentally-friendly vehicles.
Balancing personal health and environmental health in confectionery while making the product tasty and indulgent is going to be a huge responsibility, as is predicting global confectionery trends post COVID-19 - or what the Barry Callebaut research calls The FUTURE phase.
One thing is for sure, the pandemic has raised interest in healthier eating to support overall health, which has also been mirrored by some consumers in a growth in interest in comfort indulgence to ward of anxiety and stress.
Portion-controlled products will appeal to healthy eaters and with this new roadmap from Barry Callebaut, there is a way to steer consumers from being ‘Angry Birds’ to become happy birds.