Stocking up for an uncertain future

Author: Lena Barner-Rasmussen

Stocking up for an uncertain future

Who could have thought that a virus could turn the world upside down? That is exactly what COVID-19 has done, also when it comes to consumer behavior.

Worldwide lockdowns, travelling coming to a complete halt and panic buying of vital supplies are phenomena we all now associate with the corona virus.

The COVID-19 outbreak has changed consumer behaviours on several fronts. A fresh report from the consultancy firm McKinsey showed that consumers across the globe are now into home-based activities such as cooking, news consumption and digital entertainment.

The statistics are the same all over the world. A survey conducted on Malaysian food shopping behaviour during the COVID-19 outbreak showed that 63% of respondents said they have been stocking up on fast food like fish fingers and chicken nuggets.

A few weeks into the outbreak in the US, the sales of non-perishable food, including frozen food, increased drastically.

In Finland, the sales of frozen food in the country’s largest supermarket chain nearly doubled during the two last weeks in March as the outbreak started gaining momentum.

All this has been discerned on Walki’s production lines too. Matthias Zimmerman, Business Line Manager for Barrier Board, has been busy making sure that Walki can answer to unprecedented demands in certain sectors.

“Since the lockdowns began, we have seen demand increase between 70 and 100% for flexible packaging and barrier boards.”

Those materials are used to package frozen food and ready meals. As consumers have been forced to forego visits to the local restaurants, the demand for frozen food and ready meals has soared through the roof.

“It started in March when people started panic buying and stocking up non-perishable food”, he explains.

And even if people didn’t not buy out of panic, the recommendations to go to the supermarket as seldom as possible forced consumers to plan ahead and make sure the freezer and fridge stayed stocked for weeks on end.

That has put certain segments in the food industry hard at work, 24 hours, seven days a week. Walki, catering to global food packaging companies with flexible packaging and barrier board solutions, have followed suit.

“Fortunately, we have been able to keep our plant running and hence, we have been able to handle the increased demand”, Zimmermann says.

And the soaring demand has been evened out by staggering demand in other sectors. As cafés and restaurants have been closed, the demand for take away food and coffee has dipped, hence also cups and trays.

Going forward, according to the McKinsey survey on consumer behaviour, consumers expect to keep on spending more time on domestic tasks such as cooking and making home improvements. Even though restrictions are gradually lifted, the study shows that consumers are hesitant about attending large public gatherings, travelling and even visiting restaurants.

TV dinners at home may remain in vogue for some time.

Sources: Statista, Nielsen’s Retail Measurement Services, KcKinsey

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