By: Krystal Register, Director, Health & Well-being, FMI
As noted in The Food Retailing Industry Speaks 2020 (Speaks) report, “the greatest health crisis in 100 years has scrambled just about every facet of food retail, not to mention society in general.” As a result, one guiding imperative resonates across the entire food industry: Priority #1 is to keep employees and customers safe and healthy. Every retailer talks about their greatest concern being the health and well-being of their customers and associates, and all have pivoted quickly with new strategies and solutions.
Cleaning and Sanitation
As a result of CDC recommendations, most shoppers witnessed enhanced routine cleaning and sanitation, especially on ‘high touch point’ areas of the store. Technology commitments led to 87% of retailers reporting that they now accept mobile payments for “touchless” checkout with added appeal. Seeing these stepped-up efforts was important for consumers to have a sense of security and safety in their local stores. Retailers increased their communication efforts to clearly relay all the safety steps being taken in the COVID-19 environment. Spotlighting these heightened hygiene practices was challenging, but especially important amid swirling information and sometimes conflicting advice being broadcast to consumers.
In addition to in-store cleaning and sanitation, retailers told us they quickly shifted to help consumers who found themselves cooking more at home, relying heavily on food purchased from the grocery store. In 2019, 56% of retailers identified “consumers’ changing ways of meal consumption” as being a positive factor impacting the food retail business. Since the pandemic, that number has jumped almost 20 percentage points with 75% of retailers recognizing this area as a positive contributor to business.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, shoppers were seeking easy home meal solutions and retailers were quick to provide a wide range of options, despite being faced with significant challenges in operating some sections of the store such as self-service areas and salad bars. One responding retailer noted a new lesson about keeping communication consistent and simple: “Customers looking for solutions, help during the crisis.”
Health and Well-being
Speaks identified major trends in 2019 that were positively impacting business, to include consumers placing an increasing level of interest on health and well-being. As a result of COVID-19, 76% of retail respondents said that consumers’ focus on health and well-being was the most positive issue affecting their business. With health and nutrition top-of-mind, 71% of retailers note leveraging food to help consumers manage and avoid health issues. Now, more than ever, the food industry is positioned to build on the trust and partnership of being on the shoppers’ side, helping them achieve their personal goals when it comes to shopping, cooking and eating to stay healthy and well.
National Family Meals Month™ is an industry-wide movement that was launched by the FMI Foundation in September 2015 to raise awareness of the benefits of frequent family meals. The current mission is aimed at helping families “Stay Strong with Family Meals” by encouraging and supporting family meals, and promoting the health benefits and the family connection benefits of gathering around the table for food and conversation. Fifty-six percent of responding food retailers are aware of the effort, and almost half (45%) planned to participate this year.
We know that more Americans are preparing meals at home during this pandemic (U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker, July 14-20, 2020), with almost half (49%) saying they expect to continue cooking more at home in the future. Retailers will continue to play an essential role providing solutions and inspiration for consumers looking to stay strong with family meals.