In a crisis you realise what is important to you.
So it’s no surprise that among support for those in the health services, for care workers and those who keep our infrastructure running, people have come to realise how critical those who produce, distribute and sell the food we eat are during the Covid-19 induced lockdown.
The question that food and hospitality industries worldwide are asking themselves is how consumer behaviour will change once the crisis is over.
It is imperative to consider how diners’ relationships with the food they buy and eat has evolved. We are at a critical inflection point where issues that were in the back of many consumers’ minds are now coming to the top of their agendas because of the choices they have had to make in recent weeks.
To understand the future, let’s look at the recent past.
When Covid-19 started having an impact, people started worrying that the supply chain that provides their essentials would break down. This was because they realised that the critical journey isn’t from the local supermarket or take-out to their house, but from the producer to the outlet. You can’t go from farm to fork if you can’t get from farm to store.
In the earlier days of the crisis people started to stock up – and in some cases panic buy. And what was the first foodstuff to fly off the shelves – pasta? That’s because consumers realised two things – one that pasta is versatile and has a long shelf life, and secondly that it is largely made in Italy which was one of the countries hit earliest in the pandemic.
Once the immediate panic was over, people realised that they needed to shop less frequently, either because it was good sense or because their government told them to stay indoors as much as possible.
This meant that, rather than pick something up from the convenience store on your way back from work (a journey you were no longer making), you had to plan your meals for many days in advance. If you shop less, you tend to buy more and pay more attention to what you are buying and what you are eating.
This is making people more conscious of what the ingredients of a balanced meal are, both when cooking at home or dining out.
This will accelerate a trend we are already seeing of consumers considering the provenance of the food – where it is made, what it is made of, is it healthy and is it environmentally sustainable?
A result of this trend, which plant-based meat alternative brand Meatless Farm are quite happy about, is that more people are either cutting out, or cutting back on, meat in their diet.
Think Tank company Food Frontier recently found that one in three Australians have now tried new generation plant-based products1 (for example Meatless Farm’s range of mince, burgers and sausages that have the taste and texture of meat, but are made from plants).
This amplifies the focus on provenance.
If you are trying to persuade people to try a plant-based protein it will become essential that they know what it is made of, how it is made and how the raw materials are grown.
According to a spokesperson for the company, Meatless Farm are already improving the formulation and traceability of their products, and as they grow, they will gain more control over their supply chain, allowing further improvement and innovation.
In almost every aspect of our lives, Covid-19 has been both a shock to the system and a wake-up call. Consumer behaviour is changing, and the food and hospitality industry must change with it.
Interested buyers and chefs can get in touch with Decade Foods, and can learn more about Meatless Farm’s products and their potential uses at www.meatlessfarm.com/australia
- Colmar Brunton (AU). Food Frontier & Life Health Foods: Project Evolve: Highlights Report [Internet]. Melbourne: Colmar Brunton; 2019 Jul [cited 2019 Aug 13]. Available from: https://www.foodfrontier.org/resources/