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  • Industry Voices: COVID’s Effect on Consumer Behavior

    George Hajjar

    Specialty food makers and buyers are uniquely positioned to notice and understand shifting consumer behavior elicited by the COVID pandemic. We interviewed several industry professionals as part of the recently released annual research, State of the Specialty Food Industry + 10-Year Category Tracking and Forecasts. You can find full video interviews when purchasing this year’s report.

    Following is a list of responses from makers and buyers regarding the effects that the pandemic has had on consumer behavior and purchasing patterns.

    “People have definitely started looking at food as medicine more.”—Tonia Farman, co-founder/CEO, Queen of Hearts

    “It has opened the door for natural organic specialty products…we’re seeing much more educated shoppers from that perspective. Beyond health, they’re looking for more personalized choices. If you think about taste, lifestyle convenience, there are so many things going on since COVID that are driving some of that consumer behavior.”—Jeremy Adams, senior center store category manager, KeHE

    “What we’re seeing is a high comfort level with experimentation [in the kitchen], whether it comes to techniques, flavors, and even maybe types of food they may have not had. We are seeing that theme of experimentation as a big trend in consumer behavior.”—Patti Doyle, CEO, Rumi Spice

    “I look at center store as wanting to create a destination that brings people back to the table, so…we build our curated offering around that. There are certain impulse categories—snacks, beverages, bars, yogurt—that tie into that shopping experience. Those areas are all starting to come back up.”—Dwight Richard, director of center store, Town & Country

    “Indulgence is king. It’s one of those things that’s pandemic-proof and inflation-proof. People are always going to want to be surprised and delighted…So I think meeting that need is very important for us. There’s just a lot more curiosity coming from consumers when it comes to food or ingredients.”—Pierre Jamet, chief sales officer, Petit Pot

    “Charcuterie and entertaining will come back on the scene pretty strong because it obviously took a little bit of a dip as people weren’t entertaining as much….We’re also seeing a lot of spices and worldly kind of recipes where people are trying and tapping into different ethnic types of foods.”—Cassy Kehoe, senior fresh category manager, KeHE

    “We want what we want and we want it now, and we don’t want to have to go out and get it, so services like DoorDash and grocery delivery we find to be very convenient and we want to continue doing those things.”—Alexandra Groezinger, president, Alexian Pate

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