How COVID-19 will change healthy and sustainable retailing

ahodleenperFood banks don’t have enough food to meet demand, retailers are out of stock on key staples, while at the same time farmers have dumped products because they usually supply restaurants and they haven’t been able to reroute these products to retail or directly to consumers.

"Our brands have donated millions of dollars to help food banks and food relief," said Megan Hellstedt, vice president of sustainable retailing at Ahold Delhaize. "The question is though, how quickly can supply chains adapt to get enough staples to consumers and fill needs during uncertain economic times?"

Eating from home
Research by IRi in mid-April — the key retail trends tracker — predicts that 65 percent of people will continue to eat at home even after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

In light of this, Hellstedt said Ahold Delhaize's brands are bringing even more attention to the information and services they provide to support healthier choices — such as online cooking advice, recipes on social media and guidance on healthy eating habits. Many consumers have more time now to explore new cooking and eating habits, and our brands are helping them do that.

Healthy eating
During the crisis people are cooking more at home — and possibly eating less unhealthy items.

At the same time sales of sweets, salty snacks and prepared foods appear to be increasing. "I think, though, that the jury is still out on whether people move toward or away from healthy eating during this crisis," said Hellstedt.

Hellstedt said on sustainability, however, the heightened awareness about environmental and social topics — such as climate change, inequality — among consumers and businesses seems to be holding strong.  This is different from past periods of crisis, when we’ve seen consumers and businesses often put sustainability on a back burner.

The current crisis is causing an increase in single use plastics to keep food protected during COVID-19. We are monitoring this and remain committed to reaching our 2025 goal of all own brand plastic packaging being fully recyclable, reusable, or compostable.

"My view is that society will continue the move to more sustainable packaging due to concerns about plastic pollution," said Hellstedt. "Corona will cause a short-term spike in the curve — and once viable alternatives for single-use, non-recyclable plastic packaging are widely available, we’ll make the move to those."

The COVID-19 crisis is making product origin much more visible than before — that’s because local products are more likely to be on shelves. Products coming from farther away are more likely to have supply chain disruptions.

Hellstedt said it is likely that post-COVID supply chains will get shorter and more local/regional. With the current heightened attention on product supply and origin, Ahold's brands are increasing their sourcing from local suppliers, developing new innovations to get products to our shelves, and continuing to increase the product information available to consumers, on shelf and online. 

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