This past year was unlike any other throughout our history as a nation, and the snack and bakery industry saw significant impact. While some companies lost business—particularly for anyone primarily supplying the foodservice market—others faced increased demand as people across the country stocked up on staples and comforting favorites.
As we step into a fresh year, with hope for recovery across the board, we have a number of lessons to learn from 2020. After all, there’s nothing quite like a pandemic to vet the resilience of your business.
For those who suffered due to the devastating drop in foodservice business, the value of a balanced portfolio became clear. The economy always catalyzes fluctuations in retail vs. foodservice consumer spending, and having a foot in both markets often makes sense. Other snack and bakery businesses diversify through other routes, such as distribution or logistics. Direct-to-consumer e-commerce increased over the past year, and the convenience and safety of online ordering will only continue, so that’s another avenue to explore.
Companies across grain-based foods industry seeing higher demand also have operational considerations. Taxing a diminishing workforce with increased hours and production equipment pushed to its limits both need care. Curating a strong, healthy, engaged workforce is vital to maintaining high production levels. The past year has instilled newfound importance in keeping employees safe, healthy, and happy, with a reasonable balance between work and personal/family time. Similarly, production equipment facing stronger throughput needs increased attention for preventative maintenance to avoid catastrophic breakdown.
The need for better life balance is echoing throughout society, and we will see more people working from home—if not 100 percent of the time, at least partially and on a regular basis. This is changing the way people snack throughout the day. Fresh R&D and marketing approaches will need to align with the needs for increased at-home snacking.
We have also seen consumer confidence erode. We remain a nation divided in many ways, with varying perspectives on how to elevate our great nation to higher levels of prosperity for all people. Strong snack and bakery companies will step into the fray with transparency, positivity, and equity, aligning themselves with the community, giving back in meaningful ways, and affecting positive change.
We are a nation yearning for brighter skies. And we all have the ability to do our part.