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Consumers and COVID-19

Consumer Corner looks at how the pandemic has affected consumer behaviour in Canada.
 
“Consumer behaviour changes over time,” explains Jeewani Fernando, provincial consumer market analyst with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. “However, the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing consumers to change their behaviours and lifestyles at a speed and scale unlike ever before.”
 
Analyzing market research data on consumer spending patterns during this time, she says that these findings can help Albertans and the Alberta agri-food sector understand market changes and plan for what comes next.
 
“According to Nielsen’s consumer behaviour thresholds,” she says, “towards the end of March 2020, Canadians were living with severely restricted shopping trips. They were increasing online shopping but experiencing some fulfillment limitations and limited stock or out of stock situations.”
 
The retail sector reported record-breaking sales during March 2020 with prepared foods, refrigerated foods along with dairy and frozen foods topping the list.
 
She notes that lock down measures and social distancing have severely affected foodservice industry operations. Consumer spending on foodservice are forecasted to contract by 24% – the best-case scenario – to 28% – the worst-case scenario – for restaurants in 2020.
 
“We are seeing that COVID-19 impacts on retail and the food service sector have trickled down to other members of the food supply chain, such as producers, processors and distributors.”
 
Fernando adds that there are some early signs that consumer food purchasing patterns may change permanently.
 
“As market data and research suggest, product quality and transparency, local products, and technology solutions for product purchases are the most important factors for consumers. Agri-food companies who can leverage these factors will have a greater chance of performing well in these turbulent market conditions.”
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