In the United States, restaurants constitute 4% of GDP, and around 15 million people are either directly or indirectly employed in the industry. Dining out both supports and enriches livelihoods in the country and has been vitally important to the cultural fabric of the US.
However, as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic, 90,000 restaurants closed permanently, and the industry as a whole lost $290 billion in revenue between 2020 – 2021, according to Bloomberg. So, it’s fair to say that the devastating effects of the pandemic have been felt throughout the sector, and it is fundamentally changed as a result.
For the restaurants that have survived, how has their business model been affected? How has food consumption behavior changed as a result? And what role will food samples play in the post-pandemic world? Let’s find out how this impacts packaged food startups.
Pandemic-Induced Changes to Restaurant Operations.
Since March 2020, the restaurant industry in the US has experienced incredible headwinds. Restaurant owners were told to shut their doors to the public and were faced with a drastic loss of revenue overnight.
Unable to serve customers indoors, many owners looked to pivot and offered home delivery to their customers. However, this involved increased costs to implement the systems needed to manage the ordering and delivery process at a time when capital was scarce.
What’s more, the sector was ravaged by supply chain issues (remember the Ever-Given saga), and staff had to be furloughed or laid off. These supply chain issues has also resulted in price increases across the board for food service.
Combined, these systemic, paralyzing factors resulted in a transformation of restaurant operations, as owners were looking to survive the pandemic by any means necessary (increasing prices, requiring larger tips and reducing service hours). But most critically, it also resulted a change in the way that their customers consumed food.
A Seismic Shift in Food Consumption Behavior.
Pre-pandemic, approximately 163 million people in the US spent an average of $71 dining out each week. With restaurants closed, something had to give.
In fact, 85% of Americans admit to changing their consumption habits due to the pandemic. People started cooking for themselves a lot more and looked at incorporating new foods, dressings, and sauces into their diets. Pandemic gourmands have driven trends in social media starting with sourdough! Most everyone fancied themselves a baker for the first few months of the pandemic when flour became a sought-after commodity.
While restaurants have suffered no-end, newly emerging brands in supermarkets have proliferated, which suggests that the pandemic-induced change in food consumption might be semi-permanent, as people realize the benefits and rewards of cooking at home (both financial and health related benefits).
Within this context, food samples will play a crucial part in post-pandemic food consumption behavior.
Digital Food Samples Will Innovate Sampling in the Post-Pandemic World.
Research from 2019 found that consumers who sampled a product were 11% more likely to buy it during the course of a 20-week period than those who simply saw it being advertised.
Because Americans have more supermarket choices than ever before, there’s very little doubt that food samples can enhance sales and influence consumer choice in the post-pandemic world.
The key to the success of food samples lies in the ‘taste factor,’ as even the most influential TV ads cannot compete with sampling when it comes to persuading consumers to purchase their product. Smaller brands have turned to social media influencers, given the high cost of TV ads, but our survey shows that consumers dont place a high degree of trust in influencers. Consumers are influenced by recommendations from friends or family or a direct food sample.
Huge brands such as Heineken have seen recent success with sampling in recent times. Given the current landscape, we will almost certainly see more recognizable brands utilize the power of sampling to their advantage.
Are You Positioned for Success?
No matter what your product is, creating food samples for consumers to try will undoubtedly encourage more consumers to try your brand.
Given the increased supermarket competition and the drastic alteration of the restaurant landscape, it’s vitally important for brands to get their products in front of as many new consumers as possible. There is a window of opportunity for packaged food brands to capture the attention of consumers.
Distributing free food product samples for your potential clients to try is an excellent way of positioning yourself in the market, and will provide you with the best possible chance of success in the post-pandemic world.
This is our value proposition to manufacturers. Work with us to create a sample box of products in each category. We will manufacture the samples, and distribute these free samples (except for the cost of shipping) to consumers, who receive the samples in the mail, and provide feedback to you.
Sign up and connect with us, let us work together to position your business for success in this new paradigm!