Food trends and buying groceries have changed at the time of COVID-19, including also positive developments.

Changing food trends – Cooking, eating and buying at the time of COVID-19

Jyrki Kallinen

COVID-19, also know as the corona pandemic, has impacted us in various ways in the year 2020. While many implications of the pandemic are negative in nature, there are also certain positive behavioural aspects to consider. Change is constantly challenging the status quo, resulting in new ways of thinking and behaving through adaptation. This article focuses on food trends; how corona has influenced how we cook, eat and buy food in Finland.

Strengthened appreciation of locally produced food

Already before the pandemic, there was a common macro trend that favoured locally produced food. Environmental sustainability, support for the local ecosystem and businesses, as well as the perception of high quality and purity of local food were among the key drivers. The pandemic has reinforced this trend even further. At a time of significantly heightened standards on hygiene and precaution, it is easy to understand the perception of lower risk associated with locally produced food products (versus imported products). Add the economic aspect to the puzzle, how hard certain industries and companies are hit by the pandemic, and the local “produced here” factor plays even a stronger role.

Earlier this month Crowst published a press release (in Finnish) based on the study results on what Finnish consumers think about the quality of selected Finnish food and drinks categories, and how they asses the potential of these categories for foreign export. From the perspective of Finnish food producers and consumer brands the results were a very positive read. The vast majority, 81 percent of the respondents, are quite or very proud of Finnish food and drinks products. Purity, quality, safety and good taste were commonly associated with the aforementioned products. Moreover, the products perceived to possess strong potential for foreign export represented a broader variety of  categories than one might initially think.In September, Crowst collaborated with HKScan Oyj on a study, sourcing insights that showed that 34 percent of the Finnish consumers have bought more Finnish food products at the time of corona pandemic compared to the time before it (see the HKScan press release in Finnish). Thus the results of positive perception on Finnish food correlates with actual buying behaviour in Finland. In these challenging times this is vital and a very welcome news for the domestic food value chain.

Diversifying buying behaviour opens new opportunities

In international comparison to other Western societies, Finland is typically considered a laggard in online buying. Commonly the Finns are accustomed to visit stores to buy their food. While there are new modern food delivery methods and business models that have expanded from Finland to international markets, such as Wolt, it is true that Finns have favoured shopping at brick & mortar rather loyally. Also, the differing behaviours and gaps on buying food in the largest cities versus rural areas are growing strongly.

In Finland, the pandemic has diversified the ways of buying food. Based on governmental precautions and regulations, restaurants have started to put more effort and focus on selling take-away food. Large retail chains have also developed their own home delivery services, aiming at helping those who belong to the COVID-19 risk groups, who are forced to minimize their social contacts and visits to public spaces such as shops.

The uptake on the use of home delivery services of food was clearly visible in April, already. This covers both readily prepared meals, as well as food products delivered from grocery stores. In April, Crowst ran a study (see the study results on the press release, in Finnish), which showed that almost every third respondent had ordered food home more than before the pandemic started. It is meaningful to presume that this trend has intensified further in the past 6 months, especially now in the Autumn during the second wave of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also opened new opportunities, e.g. in the diversifying forms of buying, cooking and eating food.

The use of food home delivery services has grown strongly at the time of COVID-19 in Finland.

Trends and behaviours change. The future will show which trends will continue to thrive after the pandemic is over, and which trends will weaken when the pandemic is beaten.

It boils down to time, togetherness and good food

Beyond the impact of the corona pandemic, there are also other trends and developments to take into account. In January Crowst published an article, where Tomi Kuittinen (Head of Insight & Foresight at HKScan Oyj), shared his view on how urbanization drives new trends and eating habits.

General awareness, health consciousness, well-being and food are closely intertwined. People have become more mindful of what they cook, what they eat, and people also plan in advance those moments when they buy take-way food or dedicate time for a delicious meal at a restaurant. Seasonal feasts and related behaviours, around special foods and dishes, have also become more common to break the routine.

Combine the above developments with the impact of the corona pandemic. Due to restrictions and also voluntary, preferred ways of acting under these special circumstances people have more time to be at home and with the family. People have more control to plan and dedicate moments that count, moments called as quality time. Cooking together, trying out new exotic recipes, and having a chatter involving the young and the older is only a positive thing. The youth learn about cooking, and the older learn about new and agile ways to order food, being it ready meals from restaurants or products ordered from retail chains or web-shops. And most importantly, this all happens in the spirit of togetherness.

We at Crowst have run a variety of studies linking to the corona pandemic and changing behaviours (e.g. online shopping, attitudes and consumption of food). There are plenty of coverage on nation-wide media based on Crowst’s releases included in the article above.

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