Opinion: Brands pivot innovatively to meet the needs of health-conscious post-pandemic consumer

post-pandemic consumer

Asheesh Kumar Sharma, Vice President Marketing at Agro Tech Foods Limited speaks about the post-pandemic consumer who is not only more health-conscious but also choice-driven and how brands evolve to level with these consumers.

As a result of COVID-19, we have had to stay at home for almost two years.  Where fear and uncertainty were our constant companions. Juggling responsibilities without house help’s led to increased dependence on home-cooked food as opposed to the easy option of eating out. Moreover, the younger post-pandemic consumer started experimenting with newer eating options at the convenience of their homes. We witnessed a massive habit change, likely to stay relevant in times to come with consumers also having become more innovative and experimentative in their own creative pursuits.

Apart from the zillion other things the pandemic has changed in our lives, it has also changed the way we view immunity, health, lifestyle, and eating habits. India’s leading packaged consumer goods companies have had to recalibrate their health and immunity food offerings as consumers had started to get mindful and watchful of what they have on their plate in the post-pandemic world.

It has been noticed that consumer awareness about healthy eating habits has increased over the last few years, leading to a change in consumer preferences. The growing demand is driving brands to think of ways to bridge the market gap. As a result, the industry has seen a rise in brands offering healthy eating options to cater to consumer needs.  

Healthy foods have been in demand steadily but the pandemic heightened it, resulting in an estimated $ 8.3 billion market size for Indian healthy food by 2023. 

Additionally, when it comes to packaged food, detailed ingredients labels are paid significant attention by consumers. Thus, brands have chosen healthy ingredients that are higher in nutritional value over less healthy alternatives. 

In light of all the above, consumer interest in choosing foods with better nutrition has grown, but so has their appetite for mid-meal snacks. So, the need of the hour was to make sure one can snack as much as they want, without an ounce of regret or guilt on compromising one’s health.

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2020 saw a significant uptick of in-home food items and packs.  In 2021, similar trends have been identified but with the active vaccination drives in the country, people are hoping to get back to work, where consumption out of home is also expected to rise. As a consequence of the evolution of e-commerce, consumer understanding of the brands has improved since comparisons can be made far more easily now on both price and benefits. This was and will remain more difficult in brick-and-mortar stores where the act of reaching out, turning the labels, struggling to read the weight and the price made the task more cumbersome. This will play out well for brands that provide differentiated offerings at a pricing that is mass-based.

Taking a cue from the rising consumer demands brands have come up with ready-to-eat multigrain cereals that are not only healthy and tasty but also convenient to consume. The aim is to ensure that taste and convenience are not compromised and customers can consume them both in-home and out-of-home. 

As this category grows and competition gets more high octane, packaged food brands need to prioritize more marketing avenues for content to power discovery: From announcements in a more creative format beyond just the press releases, one can explore videos and demonstrations on social platforms to create instant attention, open a relationship channel, build early demand and deliver value. Secondly, educating the consumer on a particular topic would be highly valuable. Through leadership content or a list of 10 things you didn’t know, education can drive relevant discoverability through organic or paid search. Thirdly, one needs to see how a brand can seamlessly fit into a lifestyle and forge a natural connect. 

Modern life can mean that we’re a lot less active. With so many opportunities to watch TV or play computer games, and with so much convenience and fast food available, we don’t move about as much or eat as well as we used to.

What is more, when it comes to food choices, one person’s meat, plant-based, low-fat, reduced-sugar or gluten-free diet is another’s poison.

One thing which is surely here to stay is that health and nutrition are all set to enjoy steady and healthy growth.  So, as brand owners, we are tasked with the onus of navigating the complex and dynamic ‘grey’ areas between food and health to create distinctive, relevant, and credible propositions that engage with emerging choice architectures and changing consumer behaviour.

The article is authored by Asheesh Kumar Sharma, Vice President Marketing at Agro Tech Foods