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Simply snacking: navigating beyond COVID-19


Food industry veteran Martin Parent, President of Mondelēz Canada, weighs in on the surge in snacking during COVID-19 and how his company is helping grocers prepare for the future.

Mondelēz Canada president Martin Parent.

Mondelēz Canada president Martin Parent.

How has Mondelēz Canada responded to these changes?
Our priority throughout the pandemic has been to provide a safe working environment for our 2,600 employees across retail, logistics and our five Ontario-based factory operations, while helping keep Canada’s food supply chain strong. As we continue to navigate this ever-evolving situation, we are keeping pace with consumer behaviour to help our retail partners make sure shelves are stocked with the foods Canadians love—now and into the future.

How has the pandemic changed Canadian consumers’ shopping behaviour?


While there have been various spikes in pandemic panic purchasing, snacking is here to stay, increasing by as much as 60% in recent months.* 

We’re seeing shoppers going “Back to the Future” with the return of the weekly grocery shop, and a simultaneous leap forward in online food shopping. As Canadians shop for both instant gratification and future consumption, we’re also seeing more items purchased per visit, and a preference for larger product formats.

Faced with continuing change, stress and uncertainty, consumers are increasing their “comfort snacking” with trusted iconic brands that make them feel good. Even as lockdown measures are relaxed, increased snacking of brands Canadians know and love will remain part of their new snacking habits.

How has Mondelēz Canada responded to these changes?
Even before the pandemic we had a strong strategy aimed at being Canada’s Snacking Partner of Choice to help drive category growth with the right products, in the right place, at the right moment. This includes leveraging our iconic brands, simplifying our product portfolio, and converting shoppers in-store.

As pandemic measures changed shopping habits, we accelerated our strategy to help our customers keep their shelves stocked and their shoppers happy. As a result, we’re seeing tremendous growth from our global brands like Oreo and Cadbury, along with beloved local brands like Premium Plus and Crispers through targeted marketing investments, new product launches and creative adjacencies in-store. Watch for a reboot of the classic Cadbury Caramilk’s iconic “secret” marketing campaign this summer!


How will the pandemic affect innovation in the food sector?
Reducing complexity in our portfolio and launching innovative new products go hand-in-hand for us; they are both strategies aimed at understanding consumers and giving them what they want. Our targeted, smart innovation process is firmly rooted in our deep understanding of the consumer.

For example, our first global State of Snacking report late last year showed two out of three Canadian adults felt quick, on-the-go bites more suited their lifestyle than full meals. As Canadians staycation this summer, the goal of our launch of a new Crispers Cheddar flavour in July was to support moments happening across Canada with domestic summer travel, socially distanced entertaining and stay-at-home activities.

How are you working to help Canada’s grocery industry prepare for the future?


As a leader in snacking in Canada, we have a big role to play in helping retailers answer increased demand caused by the spike in at-home eating over the past five months, as well as prepare for a potential second lockdown and post-COVID future. The $250 million invested in our plants over the last few years alone—including $40 million in our candy-making plant (home of Sour Patch Kids) last year—is helping ensure that our supply chain can meet spikes in consumer demand with agility.

Our unique insights also aim to drive category growth and purchase. For example, our Canadian Demand Spaces “snacking database” helps us understand what drives snacking behaviours by looking at unique emotional and functional needs, such as “taking a break” during a busy day or an “evening unwind” moment once the kids are in bed. By better understanding Canadians’ motivations, we can help them make mindful decisions about choosing the right snack, for the right moment, made the right way.

How have you adapted your business strategy for 2020 and beyond?
We entered the pandemic with a strong strategy to invest and simplify. Once we ensured a safe working environment for our colleagues across our Canadian operations, we accelerated this plan—making quick decisions and seeing the benefits in real-time.

Ultimately, crises teach us not to expect to have all the answers. As we move into the next phase, we are focusing on what’s important to Canadians by investing in the products, brands and formats they want. Our team continues to work with our retail partners to keep things simple, stay agile and drive mutual efficiencies so that together we can emerge stronger.

Mondelēz Global COVID-19 consumer behaviour tracker 2020

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