The food industry post-Covid-19

The Covid pandemic has affected the food industry in ways we could never have predicted. Many food service brands have risen to the challenge in a number of different ways, from turning takeaway to selling provisions supermarket-style. The meat industry faces a tough challenge in maintaining social distancing at plants – whilst also dealing with the challenge of carcass imbalance due to increased demand for products like mince, and a plummeting demand for finer cuts usually bought by the restaurant trade, a challenge similarly facing the seafood industry with restaurant and supermarket fish counter closures.

While long-shelf life products such as tinned soups and pasta have seen huge spikes driving short-term shortages, the food industry is faced with dealing with excesses in other areas, such as the milk normally taken by coffee chains and the potatoes used by fish and chip shops.

But what can we expect to see once things return to ‘normal’? Bowman Ingredients take a look at some of the most likely predictions. One thing we know for certain is that any easing of current restrictions will happen extremely gradually.

Social eating

Once restaurants are able to reopen, it’s fair to say that they’ll enjoy a glut of people dining out for the first time they’ve been able to in months, with diners seeking out the meals and food-chains they have missed most. However, there are likely to be restrictions including social distancing measures in place for some time. When it comes to supermarket shopping, as lockdown is lifted or eased, there will be more social gatherings in the home also, with a rise in demand for barbecue foods, roast dinners and sharing or party-style foods.

Delivering on delivery

Life in lockdown has spurred many consumers to buy things online that they would have never previously considered, from groceries and fast-food to butcher’s meat packs and local market delicacies.  Online food shopping had never taken off in the way that the industry had predicted – now that more people have discovered its ease and convenience, we’re likely to see some of these shopping behaviours continue post-lockdown. We may see an increase in deliveries and kerbside pick-ups from smaller food retailers and food-service establishments– as well as improvements in packaging to enable a greater range of meals to travel better.

Home cooking… and baking

With more time on their hands, consumers are currently rediscovering the joys of cooking from scratch. In fact, an upsurge in bread-making and other home baking led to retailers selling out of flour and yeast far and wide. While people are likely to reach for the convenience foods again once they become strapped for time once more, those who have discovered a passion are likely to continue, giving an extended boost to the sales of raw ingredients.

The rise of plant based

Unsurprisingly, the cause of the outbreak has led people to seek greater supply chain reassurance about their food, and in particular, their meat. One sure-fire way to avoid meat that may have been produced in a potentially unsafe way is to avoid meat altogether. Add to this potential meat shortages and it seems we’re perfectly placed for plant based to climb yet further in popularity. With high profile brands gaining a lot of traction and so many new plant-based products springing to market, including a rapidly growing supermarket presence, plant-based has never been more accessible or appealing to the public.

…and cultured meat

Likewise the appeal of lab-grown ‘clean meat’ is not just in regard to animal welfare and the environment; it’s the transparency of the supply chain from a hygiene and sanitation perspective. While it’s presently prohibitively expensive to manufacture and sell at scale, this is likely to change over the coming decades, as Mosa Meats, Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies work hard to drive costs down. With meat-eaters and vegetarians alike keen for an eating experience that’s as similar to ‘real meat’ as possible, we can expect this market to take off in a big way once it can be produced at a price that’s accessible to the mass market.

Health focussed

The start of 2020 already saw a surge in new products promising nutritional benefits from probiotics to prebiotics, various vitamins and everything in between. As people look to strengthen their immune systems against the current and any future viruses, we can expect even more gut-health focussed products, as well as those containing vitamins such as C and D hitting the market. Organic and gluten-free may also see a halo effect as people put safety and health first.

A little more local

While local farmers and veg box delivery companies have certainly seen a boom during lockdown, on a bigger scale there may be a call to increase and diversify domestic production, thus decreasing dependence on imports and narrowing the gap betweenfood production and consumption. Now that we have seen just how quickly global supply chains can be affected, countries will be looking to become more self-sufficient and resilient, which brings the added bonuses of reducing food miles and increasing local employment.

A rethink of animal agriculture

While it’s easy to point the finger at China’s wet markets, said to be the source of the pandemic, many have been quick to highlight that the west’s factory farming methods – a result of demand for more and more meat at cheaper and cheaper prices – are a pandemic risk also. While a move away from this way of doing things would certainly be a big step change and unlikely to happen any time soon, as consumers start to think about meat differently they may be willing to start to pay more for more biodiverse meat that has been raised less intensively, and to eat a little less meat in their diets overall as plant-based plays more of a role.

How we can help

As your business adapts to our changing world, work with a partner that will evolve and work with you. Our clever coatings can bring out the best in any substrate, from meat to veg and from plant-based proteins to cultured meat. We can create coatings to meet any requirement including vegan, gluten free and clean label – and all importantly, do so while delivering on finish and flavour to add maximum value to your product.