March 18: Today’s Snapshot of Stories Impacting the Food Industry
March 18, 2020
Dear Mushroom growers, shippers, importers, marketers and allied colleagues:
As COVID-19 continues to impact the globe in general, each of us personally and the food industry in particular, we’re going to begin sending a regular round-up of top news stories and other items outlining its impact. Ideally, this frequent cadence will help better inform our thinking as we continuously update our strategies and seek to provide clear guidance to others. I welcome any feedback and please feel free throughout the day to send me any stories to consider for the next digest.Best wishes,
- The Packer: “No Reason to Avoid Fresh Produce During Outbreak”
Purdue University’s Department of Food Science has a message for consumers: Don’t let a fear of the coronavirus COVID-19 keep you from eating fresh fruits and vegetables. The main focus of consumer messaging is that there is no research or cases that show COVID-19 is foodborne or transmitted by food, including fresh produce — whether packaged or bulk. “There are no clinically confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to the consumption of fresh produce or food sold through traditional retail.
- It’s Starting to Look Okay to Weave C-19 Realities into Food Messaging
Food brands, organizations and influencers are beginning to weave in messages that reflect the new realities of eating: cooking at home, boosting immunity, eating comfort foods, having more time at home, cooking with family. As long as it’s sensitive to the issue, and doesn’t seem to take advantage of the situation – i.e., no stories like, “anxious about C-19? Drink this tea!” – there is no backlash. Media are greatly increasing stories about immunity-building foods, including mushrooms. National Co+op Grocers – which represents 200 community-owned grocers – has pivoted its entire social content to tips for cooking at home with family. Conclusion: we can feel safe to cover this topic as long as it is in service to others.
- CPG’s are Beginning to Forecast Sales Increases
CPG’s are beginning to report major sales increases as people stockpile groceries and begin a major pivot to more home cooking. General Mills is among the first to factor this into its guidance when it reported earnings today.
- Grocers Assure Consumers Food Supply is Ample and Safe
Multiple additional stories ran yesterday noting that C-19 does not transfer via food and that despite social isolation and shut downs our food supply will not be affected. Several grocer industry groups met with President Trump yesterday and assured the White House and the public on this matter.
- What to Expect as Economics Impact Food Purchases
Consider this data-driven article that looks at changing food purchasing patterns after the Great Recession – can it be a map for behaviors over the coming 1-3 years? While demographics have greatly shifted over the last 10 years, a look back to 2008-2010 finds that at-home dining greatly increased, alcohol took a hit, meat purchases declined (though prices were higher then), and spending on fruits and vegetables, cereal and bakery and dairy fared well. The article suggests that consumers may turn away from foods – i.e., plant-based meats – and stick to staples. Conclusion: Further evidence that food messaging should be kept as simple as possible.
- LinkedIn is an Ideal Platform for “Listening” to Fellow Produce Marketers
Multiple groups are popping up on LinkedIn featuring food industry members sharing stories and details on how this is impacting their business. Good real-time insight. I encourage you to try to join this group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12379600/, the Produce Industry Coronavirus Resource Share Group.
- COVID-19 Employee Positive Testing: A Stellar Example in Messaging
Many business who have an employee test positive are taking proactive measures to inform their stakeholders. I want to share a statement developed by a Minneapolis grocery store when they learned an employee had a positive case. It is an ideal example of balancing facts, compassion, simplicity, details on next steps and assurances. It can be a good template if you should need to share should you have a positive case among your employees.
- Restaurants Make Hard Shift to Delivery/Takeout – and Vendors are Supporting Them
Restaurants are making a hard shift to delivery. Vendors such as Grub Hub and Uber Eats are making it easier by waiving delivery fees and/or offering daily payouts back to the eateries. Domino’s is offering “contactless delivery”. Nation’s Restaurant News is declaring we are becoming a “take out nation.” It will likely be 1-2 weeks before there is any indication this shift is working for chains and/or independents.