While the coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate headlines, some companies in the U.S. are working to do their part in keeping products flowing to store shelves. Acosta is tracking shopper habits during this crisis and the American Beverage Association is asking the federal government for assistance in keeping its products moving through the supply chain.
With the novel coronavirus dramatically affecting industries across the U.S. and the world, Acosta—a full-service sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods industry—has announced a new research initiative to track evolving consumer shopping habits and provide guidance to help retailers and brands keep shelves stocked.
“The coronavirus has put many industries in a state of flux. As we all navigate this new reality, Acosta is committed to continuing to offer best-in-class service to our brand and retail partners,” said Darian Pickett, CEO of Acosta. “Today, we are sharing our initial insights into shoppers’ perspectives and how they are impacting retailers. We are well aware that these habits and their impact will fluctuate and evolve rapidly in the coming days, weeks and months, and as such, we are continuing to monitor the situation. We will offer updated insights as they become available, so we can best guide the industry on the path forward.”
Acosta is offering its first look into how the virus, declared a pandemic on March 11, is impacting the U.S. CPG and retail industries specifically. This initial research was gathered via an online survey using its proprietary shopper community conducted between March 6-12. Acosta will continue to conduct research and will share updated data and recommendations for retailers and manufacturers on how to best meet consumers’ needs as this situation continues to develop.
Acosta’s first Covid-19 research report provides an overview of shoppers’ priorities and changing habits, as well as rules of engagement for retailers and brands, including:
Priority items for shoppers
U.S. shoppers indicated purchasing the following items specifically because of the coronavirus—hand sanitizer: 30 percent of total U.S. shoppers; disinfecting wipes: 28 percent; household cleaners/disinfectants: 25 percent; antibacterial hand soap: 24 percent; paper products: 24 percent; bottled water: 22 percent; canned foods: 20 percent.
Online Grocery Shopping on the Rise—In the four weeks leading up to March 12: 34 percent of shoppers ordered grocery items online for pick-up at the store; 25 percent made more online grocery orders for store pick-up; 58 percent of Gen Z/Millennial shoppers (ages 18-39) ordered grocery items online for store pick-up; 30 percent made more online grocery orders for store pick-up.
Rules of engagement for retailers and manufacturers
Retailers should consider shopper purchase limits for the most in-demand preventative/pantry-loading items.
Retailers should consider offering special store hours for at-risk shoppers (seniors, age 65+); or control store count to help shoppers and staff maintain social distance.
Retailers need to ramp-up online purchasing and order fulfillment capacity, as demand is expected to grow in the near term.
Retailers can modify store hours to accommodate restocking and sanitizing and look for creative approaches to staffing, like reassignment to store support.
Manufacturers can consider postponing product promotions until later in the year, so inventory issues aren’t exacerbated.
Manufacturers should focus production on core items and consider adding seasonal staff to support incremental production needs.
Manufacturers should provide solutions to help stores maintain inventory of key preventative and pantry-loading items with pallet quantities/store direct ship.
Acosta’s research was gathered via online surveys using the company’s proprietary shopper community with more than 500 shopper respondents between March 6-12.
Acosta provides a range of outsourced sales, marketing and retail merchandising services throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe.
ABA calls on Trump for help
In a March 18 letter to President Donald Trump, American Beverage Association President and CEO Katherine Lugar asked for federal help.
The letters states: “As America works together to address the challenges of the coronavirus (Covid-19), the nation’s food and beverage manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and retail partners are working tirelessly to meet the needs in our communities for food, beverages and common grocery items as timely and efficiently as possible.
“To help America’s food manufacturers and suppliers operate during this national emergency, the American Beverage Association —which represents the nation’s non-alcoholic beverage companies —requests that the federal government take the following actions:
“Essential Services Exemptions: Food and beverage manufacturing and distribution is an ‘essential service.’ As such, companies and employees involved in the manufacture, distribution, delivery and stocking of food and beverage items must be exempted from any federal, state or local declaration of emergency, imposition of curfew or shelter in place restrictions.
“Federal Action on Truck Weight Restrictions: Truck weight limits are historically governed by state law and lifted during emergencies on a state-by-state basis, but the current crisis demands nationwide action. Therefore, we ask for an Executive Order to temporarily waive state truck weight restrictions—or increase allowable truck weight to at least 90,000 pounds—for delivery of essential goods in response to Covid-19. There is an urgent need to deliver food, beverages, medical supplies and other goods to communities across America. A temporary federal emergency declaration lifting truck weight restrictions nationwide will help facilitate meeting this critical need.
“Hours of Service Clarification: Earlier this week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provided relief from Hours of Service regulations for commercial motor vehicle operations providing direct assistance supporting emergency relief efforts intended to meet immediate needs. The regulatory notice, however, created some ambiguity in referencing that it did not apply to ‘routine commercial deliveries.’ We request that FMCSA clarify in writing that the restocking of grocery store shelves by delivery drivers is included in what constitutes direct assistance for supporting emergency relief efforts.
“American consumers should know that, building on decades of good business practices and responsible regulatory policies for good manufacturing and food safety, the food and beverage industry will continue to follow all federal, state and local regulations and guidance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, there is currently no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of Covid-19. With the regulatory actions identified here, the federal government can help our industry make sure that food, beverages and common grocery items are getting to our communities as timely and efficiently as possible.”