The COVID-19 pandemic impacted all aspects of life – public health, household consumption and disposable income, employment, travel, and, social contacts. The FMCG sector was severely affected and companies had to adapt quickly to changing circumstances and regulations as well as anticipate shifts in consumer demand.
Changing consumer behaviour in all markets Consumer behaviour changed in several ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The duration of the pandemic may define whether these are temporary changes or more permanent ones. The most pronounced change was the increase of meals eaten at home while restaurants were either closed or avoided. Social distancing also brought a substantial increase in online shopping and food deliveries.
Certain trends which existed pre-COVID have experienced a clear acceleration but also polarised some consumption drivers. Well-being as a trend has been growing for years, and further accelerated as people increasingly acknowledged the role of food as a part of a healthy lifestyle. Still, with fewer sources of indulgence available, comforting foods also gained popularity. Hygiene quickly became a preference driver which impacted e.g. unpacked products such as pick ‘n’ mix sweets.
Economic uncertainty raised the level of price sensitivity, a trend seen also in previous crises, as the popularity of value alternatives increased. Locally produced food and raw materials continued to appeal to consumers looking for transparency and safety, a development that was further supported by domestic travel.
Impact from currency exchange rates
Currency exchange rates impacted net sales development negatively, mainly due to the weakened Russian rouble. Changes in exchange rates affected e.g. the costs of goods sold for Fazer Confectionery in Sweden and Russia. Cocoa purchases, which are denominated in pound sterling, were also affected.
Resilient market growth in bakery, confectionery and non-dairy
In Finland, the bakery market turned back to growth towards the end of the year. The bake-off market recovered fast, while the fresh pre-packed market performed strongly throughout the year. In Sweden, the market grew every month since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Russia, the market started to gradually recover in the third quarter. Lower price segments continued growing in the Baltic countries and Russia.
The confectionery market grew in Finland and Sweden. In Finland, Fazer’s market share remained close to last year’s level, and in Sweden, Fazer gained market share. Travel Retail was in a standstill due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions. In Fazer Retail, remote working, restrictions and recommendations on gatherings together with general cautiousness affected store traffic especially in city centres and malls. In Fazer Lifestyle Foods, the non-dairy market continued to grow, and the breakfast category strengthened. Demand for oat and rye flour remained strong in the milling business. The smoothie category declined particularly in the on-the-go channels as consumers reduced their everyday travelling and commuting.