ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Executives of food and beverage companies may have an urge to stay conservative and save resources during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Steve Walton, president of HealthFocus International, urged them to seek innovation as well, saying “creative disruption” could come during the crisis.
“In speaking with clients, friends, partners and suppliers, we find there is a wide range of differences and outlooks on how people are currently viewing this period,” he said in an April 30 webinar.
Some take an approach of let’s wait and see, he said.
“Many others that we talk to see only the most negative outcomes and are building defense and saving their resources,” Mr. Walton said. “Others see this as a fundamental return to the way things were and are maintaining their current path.”
HealthFocus International offers another outlook after hearing from thousands of consumers in 40 countries.
“We see this as a critical period of creative destruction that we think will burst with new opportunities for those who move forward with healthier, nutritious products and solutions,” Mr. Walton said. “Now, we don’t say this with relish or exciting opportunism. These are very difficult and horrible times for so many. We do not celebrate this, but at the same time we don’t think we can ignore it.”
Innovations new to the world will emerge, he said.
“We have no way of anticipating these, and we don’t suggest you spend a lot of energy trying to find the new gold rush,” Mr. Walton said. “What we do think is more productive is to recognize that COVID-19 will serve as what we call an accelerator, an incredible accelerator …”
Items promoted for sustainability benefits, established brands and canned foods all might increase in demand during COVID-19.
“We’ve heard from some folks who think there is going to be a decline in sustainability and environment,” Mr. Walton said. “We don’t believe that.”
People will continue to believe that what is good for the world is good for them, too.
“We think that COVID-19 is clearly representing that people are beginning to understand that,” Mr. Walton said.
While older generations already may be loyal to established brands, companies may find ways to make the brands appeal to younger generations.
“We see a revival of mainstream big brand imagery,” Mr. Walton said.
People seeking shelf-stable items could lead to a resurgence for processed items and canned food.
“Sometimes processed has some negative connotations, but there have always been very positive benefits to it,” Mr. Walton said.