2021 Planning – Top 5 Pandemic Considerations

In my recent COVID-19 webinar, I laid out my best, educated guess on the two main COVID_19 scenarios CPG brands are facing, large or small. Increasingly, I’m betting that a permanently altered food consumption landscape will take hold, even after the pandemic becomes endemic and managed through vaccination and treatments.

What does this look like? Well, what were temporary social adjustments (e.g. working from home) become indefinitely sticky:

• White collar work from home

• Avoidance of sit-down dining, big events

• No 3P childcare, limited family events.

And elevated CPG sales for home use become normal.

What I’m seeing is a continued situation not unlike what we’re going through now all the way through 2022, and to some extent longer in terms of large group events. So, for 2021 at least, here are the Top 5 Priorities for early-stage consumer brands as I see it:

  1. Market Heavily to Current Consumers to Sustain or Increase their Consumption: This is one reason to build an e-mail list of your fans, who tend to be repeat buyers. Getting them to increase consumption just a bit more early on in their brand adoption will be easier during this pandemic than gaining new HHs. This varies to some extent on your category’s baseline annual purchase frequency.
  2. Find Alternative Ways to Boost Trial Out-of-Store: In the absence of live, event sampling, it’s essential not to give up entirely on out-of-store outreach. Local PR and e-mail list piggybacking are free ways to get the word out about your brand. The more you can place your story/offer inside a social network who cares a lot about modern approaches to your brands’ key outcome, the better.
  3. Forward Buy Until It Hurts: given the likelihood of continued co-man run rate constraints in North America, you should buy more than you think you need with each run in 2021. Scrambling for extra run-time like it’s 2010 is not going to work.
  4. Spend Trade $ in Supermarkets, not Specialty: Foot traffic continues to be elevated in supermarkets all over the country, as shoppers pull back from their specialty wanderings each week. It’s not a great time to spend on displays at Whole Foods.
  5. Plan for Permanently Reduced Urban Restaurant/Cafe Spend: ALthough some truly exceptional fine-dining and cafe locations with huge fan bases will survive or return, the sheer collapse of white-collar office traffic will ensure that a significant % of out-of-home eating simply never returns. This reduces the number of locations to utilize a foodservice launch strategy, but it doesn’t make it impossible by any means.

If this post intrigues you, you will find loads of free content elsewhere on my Founder Resources page. I hope you enjoy the material.

Dr. James Richardson