COVID-19: Recovery and Resurgence for the Food, Agriculture and Beverage Industry

It’s clear the Coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the world. Our work with SuperValu and Cadbury over the past weeks has been both fascinating and challenging. As we move towards the next phase, hopefully a re-opening of our economy and society – we need to be very well prepared for what lies ahead.

As a recent survey from FleishmanHillard‘s TRUE Global Intelligence practice reveals, the virus is reshaping perceptions, behaviours, values and societies. These changes will be longstanding, and they will touch every industry – including food, agriculture and beverage.

While FleishmanHillard’s research was conducted in the United States, China, Germany, Italy, South Korea and the United Kingdom, the results are very interesting for us in Ireland as we plan our way forward in the coming months. The research provides a snapshot of the various stages and expectations of the crisis, voiced by a cross-section of the population. These include:

Dramatic proportions of the global population are concerned about their health and financial stability.

  • Consumers worldwide are concerned about the impact of this crisis on their health (78%) and their finances (74%). In fact, a full one-fifth are extremely concerned about its impact on health and finance.
  • Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation are expressing greater concern on the impact of COVID-19 on their health compared to young generations and Millennials and Gen X expressing greater concern about their financial situation compared to older generations.
  • This concern could lead to changing purchase behaviors, which could include cutting back on expenses or purchasing foods, beverages and products they haven’t before, with the latter potentially displacing sales of their previous go-to foods and beverages.

From charitable support to new approaches to innovation, companies need to go beyond “business as usual.”

  • Consumers want companies to provide essential products outside of their normal offerings and create products and services that help people connect and feel less isolated. For Food, Alcohol and Beverage (FAB) companies, this could mean restaurants offering groceries during this period and manufacturers producing products they’ve never made before, like hand sanitiser.
  • Many consumers also want companies to make charitable donations to organisations that are helping to lessen the impact of the crisis.

Consumer confidence will require new standards of cleanliness.

  • Expectations for specific standards to make restaurants, grocery stores and food safer will likely grow as the pandemic continues and recovery begins.
  • Already, 59% of consumers want companies to limit the number of people in a shopping or transportation locations at one time; 58% want employees to wear PPE while interacting with the public; and 40% want reduced hours to allow for deep cleaning.
  • It is key to recognize that these are operational changes, which will need to be factored into business models.

Experiences today will shape the realities of tomorrow.

  • The home quarantine experience has produced major mind shifts regarding responsibility, risk, health, freedom and time, which in turn will shift purchase habits, loyalty and employment decisions.
  • This is particularly true for Gen Z who were not only the most likely to report that the quarantine has made them view people as more dangerous, altered their sense of time and changed their view of their living pace, but they are also the most likely to look for another job with an employer based on their support of its employees and consider how a company behaved during the pandemic when considering employers in the future.
  • FAB businesses should take these broader shifts into account now as they make and communicate decisions.


These insights reinforce the reality that the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the food and beverage industry.


By: Gill Madden 

Director and Head of Brand Marketing

[email protected]