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What long-term impacts will COVID-19 have on food brand perceptions?

Posted: 6 April 2020 | | No comments yet

Reflecting on consumer behaviour and trends during the current COVID-19 crisis, Mike Hughes, Research and Insights Director at FMCG Gurus, suggests that what food brands do now might influence their popularity in the future.

What long-term impacts will COVID-19 have on food brand perceptions?

COVID-19 is the biggest topic across the globe as consumers witness a once-in-a-generation pandemic that is predicted to significantly shape attitudes and behaviours in the long-term. Currently, the uncertainty of the virus and long-term fatality rates means that priority for consumers will be maintaining health and minimising risk of illness.

However, in the long-term this is something that will also shape consumer perceptions towards brands, especially when it comes to issues such as price setting, reaction to the virus and overall sustainability issues. Indeed, times of uncertainty are something that can have a major impact on brand loyalty and result in “winners” and “losers”. The current COVID-19 crisis is no exception to this, and it is crucial that brands are seen to be acting in a responsible manner and with the best interests of the consumer at heart.

Whilst priority has rightly been given to preventing infection and death when it comes to COVID-19, there are wider issues originating from the virus that will have a direct impact on consumer attitudes and behaviour, especially in the long-term. A recession seems something of an inevitability unless there is a massive positive shift in terms of infection rates in a limited time. This is something that will significantly impact on consumer sentiment, especially if they have reduced job security and have suffered from a loss of income as a result of COVID-19.

The uncertainty of the virus and long-term fatality rates means that priority for consumers will be maintaining health and minimising risk of illness.

In turn, this will directly impact on shopping habits and brand loyalty. As consumers look to shop around to get more for their money, they will become more value-orientated and will take a dim view of brands that they believe charge an unnecessary premium price – particularly during a time of crisis. 

Although there has been little positive news when it comes to COVID-19, there has been some news that has offered reassurance, especially in the long-term. Firstly, consumers have witnessed that as society grinds to a halt, the environment has begun to repair itself, and secondly, consumers have been heartened by brands that have taken a proactive approach to helping address the virus, such as making donations, aiding key workers and switching production lines to create vital supplies.

The reality is that after the virus resides, consumer perceptions towards brands will not…

This is important at a time when consumers are concerned about the state of the environment and believe that damage done is irreversible. The later issue is something that will appeal to consumers who feel a disconnect from brands because they do not believe they act in the best interests of the individual or the wider environment. Being seen to be responsive to changing societal needs is something that will enhance brand perception. At the same time, consumers will feel a disconnect to brands that they did not act in a responsible way during the current crisis. This will range from helping consumers with their finances to helping wider society.

The reality is that after the virus resides, consumer perceptions towards brands will not – especially in a recessionary environment. As such, consumers will want brands to demonstrate that they are acting in an ethical and responsible manner. This will range from responsible and fair pricing, to protecting the environment and acting with integrity along the whole supply chain.

About the author 

Mike Hughes has over 13 years’ experience analysing consumer trends, attitudes and behaviours and currently heads up the research and insight division at FMCG Gurus. Mike has a particular interest in highlighting how consumer attitudes and behaviours can often differ and what the true meaning of trends are for the industry.

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