With the coronavirus pandemic still sweeping across the globe, it is difficult to imagine the retail sector ever returning to normal. Aside from the many brick-and-mortar retailers watching foot traffic and sales dropping, experts warn that it will take time for things to get back to the pre-COVID days. Grocery stores, however, have remained open and are faring better than any other retail segment during the crisis. E-commerce grocery sales have also accelerated – changing the game for supermarket retailers. For consumers, safety and convenience are important considerations as they opt to purchase online for delivery or contactless pick-up. Working from home has given more thought and time to prepare healthier meals, and experiment with recipes or learn new cooking skills. No doubt, the changing consumer preferences and disruptions in the supply chain have forced grocery retail to adapt quickly. Suppliers have been quick to respond and are redirecting food for restaurants to other organizations along with direct-to-consumer distribution. Supermarkets and grocery stores have expanded online offerings and are working to manage the increased demand for non-perishable food items – such as pre-packaged and ready-to-eat (RTE) foods and takeaways.
According to a recent Nielsen study of eleven Asian markets, 62% of consumers still prefer to eat at home. In Singapore, Marina Bay Sands (MBS) has progressively reopened doors to its top-notch celebrity chef restaurants as social distancing measures and protocols ease. In addition to dining in, the iconic hotel and its signature restaurants are now offering gourmet takeaway services for the first-time ever. Options include Black Tap’s craft burgers, Mott 32’s Wok-Hei Infused Stir-Fries, and Yardbird’s sharing family packs and brunch boxes as well as British classics from Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen. The meals can be collected directly from the restaurants, drive-through or the one-stop pick-up counter.
Plant Over Meat?
A hot trend in Asia, plant-based protein is seeing a surge in demand as more consumers grow increasingly concerned over the potential links between meat and viral diseases. However, the trend has to contend with a number of challenges including a continued preference for ‘real meat.’ Research firm, Mintel reported that more than half of consumers including meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans share the sentiment that animal-based meat is the best source of protein. This inclination is accredited to deep-rooted social and habitual norms revolving around the nutritious value, taste and texture of real meat. Within the plant-based market, producers are also struggling to keep up with the demand for more variety and standout choices of plant-based options other than the commonly used ingredients of soy, whey and pea.
Burger with plant-based Impossible Meat (Image: CNBC)
As a result of increased home-cooking, businesses are exploring novel ways to reach customers. Supermarket chain FairPrice Finest is collaborating with SPH Radio to launch an in-store radio program where airtime is targeted at advertisers. As part of SPH’s omnichannel advertising solutions, the program will air in 26 FairPrice Finest outlets in Singapore. It will broadcast carefully curated music, promotional messages and announcements for the supermarket chain and other advertising brands. Through this partnership, the FairPrice Group aims to improve shopper experience by creating an aural ambience while providing retail partners with a wider range of touchpoints to engage with the audience.
Trevor Ng, General Manager of FairPrice Finest (Retail Business) and Sim Hong Huat, SPH Radio’s General Manager (Image: SPH)