Consumer Behaviour

* 4 min read
Consumer behaviour; As new trends emerge post-Covid-19, how will packaging meet these needs?

Did you ever think you would have seen panic buying of toilet rolls and pasta? I didn’t, not in my lifetime. However in March, that’s exactly what we did see. There was talk of rationing, then queues going round supermarket car parks, and let’s be honest we all probably bought some items we really didn’t need but didn’t want to be caught short.

Some feared food safety of imported goods and only bought locally sourced, while others bulk bought everything in sight. Some of us even started growing our own veg. We have also seen a huge spike in online deliveries, and grocery delivery slots have been like gold dust.

One thing is for sure - we have all chosen, or been forced, to shop differently in recent months. I don’t think it will ever be the same again, but it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, it can be a positive.

One of these positives has to be a renewed sense of community spirit, which we have all experienced in one way or another. From clapping for the NHS from our doorsteps to supporting vulnerable neighbours and doing what we can to help local businesses stay afloat, we have seen plenty of heart-warming stories of communities really coming together. In a time where everything seems out of control and we have been forced to stay apart, these little gestures of solidarity have gone a long way to make us feel just that little bit more together.

With the news flooded with never-ending stories of redundancies; retail, travel and hospitality have all been hit hard. We are not only more conscious of how much we spend in these unprecedented times, but also where we are spending it. Sadly with less than 40% of small businesses expecting to survive past Christmas, the outlook will be pretty dire without our help.

There are some great examples of businesses rising to the challenge by thinking outside the box and creating a ‘new’, or at least temporary, normal. From at-home restaurant experiences and cocktail deliveries to Zoom gym classes, we are all getting used to buying the things we love a little differently. It’s fair to say that we have actively embraced these changes, and I certainly feel a little better knowing my hard-earned cash is supporting my local community. Who knows, some of these changes might even remain after lockdown is nothing but a distant memory? Only time will tell.

Since the weekly shop has now become a precision operation and we can no longer just ‘pop to the shops’ to top up, planning and meal prep have become our new normal. On the bright side, many of us now also have much more time to cook meals from scratch and be creative with our cooking, trying out new recipes and inventive new ways to use leftovers.

With this though also comes an increased awareness of our food waste, with UK households tipping the scales at a massive 4.5 million tonnes a year. Certainly for me, cooking more at home has made me realise just how much food my family was throwing out, and we have made a conscious effort to reduce this and find ways to use what’s left in the fridge.

And I’m not alone – according to a recent survey by Accenture, 64% of consumers are focusing more on limiting food waste and will continue going forward, with 45% saying the same about making sustainable choices. Sustainability comes in lots of forms, from sustainably sourced produce to brands with strong sustainable ethics to sustainable packaging choices. Maybe consumer behaviour could accelerate the sustainable movement with even more gusto?

With our new shopping and eating habits set to continue long into the future and Covid kickstarting a home working revolution, what will this mean for retailers used to relying on the lunch crowd for trade? Businesses will need to adapt to meet these new consumer behaviours and come out the other side. With the right strategy, many could even thrive, but what no-one can afford to do is stand still - we all need to act now.

tina witherspoon ePu9rM ud7g unsplashAnd what does all this mean for packaging? Can retailers keep up with the momentum we as consumers have created and drive a true focus on sustainability? Bulk-buying store cupboard goods means less packaging per unit and a focus on locally sourced fresh produce can allow for faster ‘field to fork’ time and less or no packaging. Retailers need to find the right balance between these and find the sweet spot between limiting food waste while also meeting their packaging targets.

Now the dust is starting to settle, will our shopping habits ever be the same again? Will brands and retailers adapt to our needs, now and in the future? Definitely interesting times…

Certainly in my lifetime, I have never seen so much ambiguity but why not embrace these ever changing times and carve out a new path? I believe this will bring out the best in all of us, driving responsible choices and accelerating sustainable innovation - and that can only be a good thing.