Though COVID-19 restrictions have eased and in-restaurant dining is making a slow and steady return, leaders from three of Canada's biggest CPGs say the pandemic has spawned at-home eating habits that will likely be adopted long term.
From turning to familiar brands in times of uncertainty to an increase in snacking occasions and a rise in home baking, these shifts in consumer behaviour have also created opportunities for centre store--an area of the store that, in recent years, has lost favour with customers gravitating more towards fresh.
Couple this with lingering health concerns surrounding COVID-19 and customers holding on tighter to purse strings in a post-pandemic economy and "most of these new at-home eating occasions are not going away," said Mondelēz Canada president Martin Parent.
Parent was joined by Ian Roberts, vice-president and general manager, Conagra Brands Canada and Aurelio Calabretta, vice-president and general manager, Smucker Foods of Canada last month for Canadian Grocer's webinar titled "Maintaining centre store momentum in the COVID-19 era and beyond."
"We've seen reports that say up to 30% of people may start working from home on a more regular basis. Even if that means two to three days a week, it really shifts how people consume their food," said Calabretta. "We see people commenting that they will have breakfast at home more often, that certainly plays right into our category. So it's some of these behaviour changes that we expect are going to be more permanent."
Another behaviour this burgeoning at-home economy has given way to is how Canadians approach cooking: with an eye to experimentation and discovery. "I think really, in general, there's this rediscovery of the pleasure, the convenience and the value of eating at home and all the items you need are in the grocery aisles," said Roberts. "There's a great opportunity for manufacturers and retailers alike to capitalize on that rediscovered pleasure of eating at home moving forward."
And, during times of uncertainty it's common for people to turn to the brands they trust most or returning to brands that conjure a sense of nostalgia. This is a consumer behaviour that gained momentum in the early days of the pandemic and continues today, said Parent. Mondelēz Canada, for instance, saw significant sales growth behind iconic brands including Oreo cookies, Cadbury Dairy Milk as well as Ritz and Premium Plus crackers.