From Pandemic to Endemic COVID-19 Sales in CPG

As I prepare for a June COVID-19 update, here’s where my head is at regarding what will be changing in 2021 that may affect your early-stage brand (or not):

  1. Sampling retailers may require pre-packaged samples only, which will increase the costs of this in-store technique for startups, but educated consumers may demand them moving ahead. The days of cupcake cup open-air sampling may be over. Yet, other forms of sampling do exist. Sampling to influencers by mail. Sampling kiosks for shelf-stable brands (FREEOSK). 
  2. Events – the pent-up need for mass gatherings is palpable. These will return, but not likely in pre-pandemic form in 2021 or early 2022. Expect lower headcounts and attendance until they can be conducted mask-free
  3. CPG Sales Volumes 
    1. IRI’s online dashboard has revealed inversions of the March 2020 spikes and dips by macro-category in physical retail sales are occurring (beauty, deli, seafood are all up…most of CPG is down except for Easter week)
    2. on the channel front, convenience is surging back as supermarket sector sales slump (i.e. return to where they were before as shoppers do more omni-channel brick shopping again)
    3. online grocery appears now to have accelerated with the pandemic being a massive behavioral turbo-charge among pre-pandemic users. 50% YoY increase over March 2020 seems hard to believe (see Brick Meets Click’s latest report) and yet most measurement outlets are reporting something similar
  4. Trade Shows Will Be VERY different
    1. Informa markets that own the New Hope events have released its COVID-19 physical event safety guidelines. Expo East/West will occur with masks required, social distancing, crowd reduction, and one-way navigation. If that sounds really unpleasant, it’s because it will be. Attendance will be low, as long as these requirements are enforced. 
    2. Virtual events may replace the PR function of expensive booths for start-ups in CPG
  5. Digital Promotional Savvy Up
    1. I see evidence that newer startups are adopting professional B2B marketing tactics and heavily branded outreach techniques as well as digital PR to gain attention and legitimacy during a period when face-to-face pitching has been impossible. Whether it’s a VERY slick online pitch deck or a viral virtual booth performance, improvement in founders’ digital B2B outreach will be a long-term benefit. We’ve now all realized that B2B promotional work can happen 24/7, and on demand, for any intended audience. It’s not 1991 anymore. 

Dr. James Richardson

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