Increased Demand For Processed Food Products In Lock down

No one would have thought that a virus can create a pandemic which would force the world to lockdown itself in the home. Started with China in December 2019 and reached in every corner of the world and growing on its own way. To battle with this pandemic in India, the government has taken decision to lockdown the country from March 24, 2020, to April 14, 2020, then extend to May 3 and then May 17, 2020. 
Whatever the situation may be, but everything ends on food either processed or raw. To know what processed food has demand during this Covid 19 time, we have asked 200 people to respond from different filed based at from different parts of India. Approximately 53% of people responded from western part of the country. 
The participants have responded to below questions.  

  1. Which part of India you are staying in.
  2. Which type of city you live in.
  3. Which type of processed food you bought from market (Lockdown 1.0 /2.0 /3.0). Ready-to-eat. Ready-to-fry. Ready-to-cook. JuicesSoft drinks. Chocolates Health food Bakery Products. Ingredient for recipe preparing.
  4. Where did you shop your food (Modern Retail/ Online/Grocery Shop)
  5. Where you find your wish list (Modern Retail/ Online/Grocery Shop)
  6. Which type of food you prefer post-Covid-19. 

Reviews expressed here are from the discussion with people from above part of the country, people working in sector and personal observations. Out of the total respondents 29.4% are female and 70.60% are male. Out of the total respondents 64% are from metro, 22% from tier two cities and 14% are from tier three cities. 
During lockdown 1.0 people locked in home have faced many situations, like, people started buying things panicky probably thinking that the situation can worsen. During this time 49.5% people have picked bakery and confectionery products, followed by ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat processed food 42.8% & 42% respectively. However, to spend the time with family, people started experimenting preparing food from YouTube or Google. People have explored recipes like Dolgano coffee, jalebi, cake (cooker or oven) , samosa, dhokla and pani puri. Around 67% of people have brought ingredients for such recipes. As per Google, the recipe search for above said products has spiked from 3250% to 5000%. 
Ready-to-cook products like instant noodles and pasta have been sold like hot cakes from the shelf of modern retail as well as next door grocery shops. Also because of increase in work from home trend the branded snacks items like farsan, wafers, bhujia and shev are also wiped out from shelf. Coffee and tea powder has also been bought by people. 
However during lockdown 2.0 the trend for processed food was almost remain same expect one to two category. However, due to slowdown of supply chain, branded products could not reach the shelf of the store, therefore the local or regional brands take over the shelf from branded one. Major ones are papad, masala, chutney, pickle, some milk products, sauces, ketchup and ready-to-eat snacks product. The response from respondents for lockdown 2.0 is presented in below chart.
.After having good food and good time in lockdown 1.0 people have focussed on heath foods like multigrain products, health supplements, low fat products, nutri bars organic food, chavanprash and kadha. Around 6% of spike found in health food as compared to lockdown 1.0. However, the trend for bakery and confectionery product was also spiked with 6%. The ready-to-cook products have shown decline by 3.5%, probably this might be because of increasing trend of recipe preparation and non-availability of branded product in the shelves of shops. 
Since we are in the middle of the lockdown 3.0 where some relaxations are also given by respective state government, therefore some part of the working people started routine life, and some have received short or part of their income, therefore such class of people were restricted to their routine food habits. Probably because of this reason the changes in preference by people has observed. 
Since there are many constraints like availability of inventory at home, short in income, and reopening of offices, therefore lockdown 3.0 cannot be compared with last two.  
During this pandemic time people from metro and tier two cities have opted for all the options right from grocery shop, modern retail and online grocery buying. However, this is observed that around 80% people have preferred to purchase grocery from next door grocery shop. Those who have option for all these buying channels they have opted for all. And nowa days, the next door grocery stores are also analysing the trend and according to which they maintain their inventory. They cannot give discount as compared to modern retail but they make sure that availability of all the products in small or large quantity. Further 49.5% people said that local grocery shop has fulfilled their wish list.
While modern retail stores and grocery stores have witnessed a sudden spike in regional processed food products like papad, pickle, ready-to-eat products, snacks and local branded edible oils and chakki fresh atta, due to unavailability of branded process food products with their stockist. Covid 19 has given opportunity to new entrants to prove themselves and they could match the mindset of brand carrying customers by giving matching quality at reasonable cost.
During 3 lockdowns the consumers have gone through different phases of food moods. In lockdown 1.0 consumers have enjoyed food without fearing of calorie or nutritional label that they carry. In lockdown 2.0 consumers started shifting on healthy foods and by the end of lockdown 3.0 customer may shift to healthy / natural/ ethnic food category at least for some time. Because of spreading awareness of strong immunity can beat Corona virus by different experts and Government of India. Below chart gives the idea about consumer buying behaviour post-lockdown. Consumers are becoming aware day by day and willing to go back in ancient way of food habit, like preferring brown rice, chakki fresh atta, rock salt and lakdi ghana or cold pressed oils. 
(The author is Deputy VP, ITCOT Consultancy Services, Mumbai. He can be contacted at

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