When the COVID-19 pandemic hit U.S. shores in early 2020, it caused major disruption across the snack and baking industry, and the country as a whole. Many industries have endured significant economic fallout from the pandemic. The economy is in dire straits. And unemployment is at its worst level since the Great Depression.
These are trying times to say the least, and as we enter into the summer of 2020, the future is still uncertain.
At times like this, any bright spots are cause for celebration. And the sales of many core snack foods have seen spikes as a result of businesses shutting down and imposed stay-at-home orders. In short, people are snacking through the pandemic.
Every category covered in this year’s “State of the Industry: Snacks” coverage showed gains, according to data from IRI, our retail sales analytics partner—and some of those gains have proven quite significant since the beginning of the year. Top brands that have strong emotional ties to consumers seem to be performing best. In times of uncertainly, people are reaching for trusted comforts.
The trick will be to sustain sales from this snack boom as the economy continues to reopen and we evaluate the lay of the land. Price sensitivity will have to factor strongly into decision-making, perhaps impacting decisions related to package sizes and formats, merchandising and promotions. This will likely increase competition between national and regional brands and retailers’ private label offerings. And the marketing message will need to be on pace with a beleaguered U.S. population seeking stability, support, and hope in the wake of massive societal upheaval.
The U.S. will emerge from this unprecedented time of trial hungry for growth, and our snack foods need to find the right strategies to grow right alongside us every step of the way.