Rate of Change of Consumer Behavior in the Food & Beverage Industry is Accelerating

Here’s how to keep up with ever-evolving consumer expectations.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on nearly every sector of business. But perhaps one of the most affected has been the food and beverage industry. Consumers went from dining out to ordering in – from purchasing ingredients at their neighborhood grocery to subscribing to online delivery services.

More focused on their health, trends suggest families have turned their focus to fresh, natural foods derived from local growers. And, consumers have started giving greater credence to sustainable and eco-friendly products, willing to switch to different food and beverage brands to meet their newly adopted criteria.

Indeed, the food and beverage landscape has changed dramatically over the past few years. Even with the height of the pandemic behind us, consumer behaviors remain in a relative state of flux. Rising inflation, record-low consumer confidence, supply chain issues, and influences from new Gen Z customers keep the pendulum swinging and the food and beverage industry guessing as to what’s next.

What will resonate with consumers going forward? Purchasing only the bare essentials? Products that promote fast, easy preparation? Family-style meals or single-serving portions? It’s a challenging time for the food and beverage industry as businesses strive to keep pace with ever-changing consumer mindsets over products, packaging, purchasing, and general consumption practices and preferences.

Purposeful Data Drives Powerful Innovation

It’s for this reason that data, research, and insights are more valuable than ever to the livelihood of food and beverage brands. Without it, tracking and responding appropriately to ongoing shifts in consumer spending, shopping, and dining becomes a guessing game.

For example, during the pandemic F&B giant Heinz launched its D2C business model, Heinz to Home, to get closer to its consumer. The new service, deployed in just three weeks, made it possible for customers who wanted to limit grocery store visits to order pantry items directly through the Heinz to Home website. By selling direct to the consumer, Heinz unlocked insights that enabled them to understand what their customers want and the benefits they see in their products. An understanding that allows them to drive much more agility in their innovations.

In fact, most of the world’s largest companies, of which many F&B businesses represent, spend millions every year acquiring an ocean of market insights. Yet one of their biggest pain points remains making those insights and data available to employees across the organization. Stowed away in each group’s own respective local folders and computers, only certain teams and departments can access them, causing communication bottlenecks and breakdowns, leading to duplicate efforts and flawed decision making.

One of Northern Europe’s largest food businesses experienced these same difficulties first-hand. As their company grew, the problems with siloed, decentralized data escalated to the point where it was impacting their ability to meet consumer demand. They really felt the strain when an employee resigned or reports completed years ago were misplaced or simply forgotten about. It was enough to compel them to invest in a new, democratized consumer insights platform. 

In a fast-paced, consumer-driven industry like food and beverage, placing every piece of research and data on one unified software platform where it can be effectively traced, retrieved, and utilized by anyone at any time is a profound game-changer. Armed with valuable democratized insights from all sectors of the organization, food and beverage stakeholders and employees can effectively build on each other’s ideas, collaborate openly, streamline workflow, and unlock necessary innovation to continue to produce and deliver the products their customers know and love, and in a timely manner.

Reducing Inefficiencies

Storing documents, spreadsheets, and reports in one centralized IT ecosystem is a major step toward gaining greater F&B consumer behavior insights, but the data within that huge vault also needs to be easy to find and retrieve. If not, wasted time and inefficiencies ensue. According to McKinsey research, employees spend up to 20% of business time looking for internal information that’s buried in company drives and folders. The monetary impact is incredible: Research suggests poor knowledge sharing practices are estimated to cost Fortune 500 companies $31.5 billion annually.

An enterprise insights platform powered by AI with a user-friendly experience  minimizes the costly time-suck, creating an easy path to relevant consumer research. Reports become as easy as finding information on Google with the content surfaced personalized to each individual based on signals such as market, industry and behavior. Ultimately, new opportunities for the F&B industry are uncovered quickly and efficiently. Based on easily accessible yet logically organized consumer behavior data, products can be developed and delivered and business strategies restructured purposefully to satisfy the needs and wants of F&B customers today and going forward.

Throughout the pandemic, F&B businesses have witnessed an unprecedented rate of change in consumer behavior. It’s easy to fall behind as F&B trends shift during these times of uncertainty. But with key consumer insights at your fingertips, democratized and driven by powerful search and retrieval tools, there are remarkable business opportunities for F&B organizations to discover, explore, and deliver the right products, to the right customers, at the right time.

About the Author

Thor Olof Philogène is the CEO and Co-founder of Stravito, an AI-powered knowledge management platform for market research. Prior to Stravito, Thor was Chief Revenue Officer at fintech company iZettle, which has since been acquired by PayPal.