Food consumption in 2021, Coop-Nomisma forecasts

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Sustainability is the key word of food consumption in 2021. Italians want food that respects the environment and workers and comes from a short, controlled supply chain. The forecast emerges from the‘The Year to Come‘ survey, the latest act of the Coop Report carried out in collaboration with Nomisma.

A slow recovery in consumption is expected, +4.9 percent in 2021, after the largest contraction since the postwar period (-10 percent in one year). Fifteen percent of respondents intend to save on this expenditure item, while 71 percent expect it to remain unchanged. Food-along with housing, digital and health-remains a major spending item, but priorities in choices are changing, as noted in the Coop 2020 report. And observed, at the EU level, in the recent EIT Food survey.

Good and cheap, the mantra of food consumption

The Italians’ new strategy with the goals of spending less and eating healthy, which emerged in the Covid era, continues into 2021.

Food consumption therefore remains oriented first and foremost toward purchases of basic ingredients, to cook for oneself. A trend that already emerged in the August survey, when 30 percent of respondents planned to spend more time preparing meals. Ready-made meals lose appeal, benefiting quality and healthfulness of the diet.

Environmental and social sustainability

The best performance is expected on foods made from Italian raw materials, with fresh, natural/sustainable ingredients. These three priorities hold true for 53-52-48% of the sample, respectively. The concept of sustainable spending in turn has evolved from the past.

‘Respect for the environment,’ an indispensable premise, goes hand in hand with the concepts of local or locally related production (for 50 percent of respondents) and controlled supply chain (49 percent). And the principle of fair remuneration for the various actors in the supply chain finally emerges, in a logic of socio-environmental sustainability that interests 47 percent of respondents.

GDO, variable weather

Restrictions imposed in December 2020 spurred consumption of meals at home. Therefore, the large-scale retail trade (GDO) recorded an increase in sales, +8 percent, during the Christmas week. 2020 sales of the large-scale retail sector are showing appreciable growth. +4.2% in the physical channel, +5% considering also the ecommerce channel, which, with a change close to +140%, contributes almost a percentage point to the overall growth of the sector.

Economic difficulties have certainly favored the growth of discount stores (+9.1 percent) and drug specialists (+8.1 percent). Travel restrictions, on the other hand, contributed to the decline in sales in hypermarkets (-2.8 percent) and caused free service to grow, which, in a reversal of last year’s trend, marks a positive change of +5.8 percent.

The 2021 forecast is variable for large-scale retail. The threat of economic crisis, according to 27 percent of managers surveyed, will have negative effects on final demand. Therefore, sales of food and FMCG products are expected to decline. The gradual overcoming of the health emergency-and the recovery of out-of-home consumption-will then lead to a decline in retail sales estimated at -2.6 percent (-1.6 percent if ecommerce is also considered). Discount stores (+1.8 percent) and drug specialists (+2.9 percent) bucked the trend.

Ecommerce, beyond the good and the bad

The greatest difficulties are expected in the South. In the northern regions, on the other hand, greater resilience is expected, thanks in part to the boost fromecommerce, which is concentrated in those areas. Ecommerce represents the dilemma of supply chain operators. For top food managers, this channel is both a threat (for 60 percent of respondents) and an opportunity (40 percent).

Nielsen expects a further increase in online sales, +62%, in 2021, with an opportunity to improve consumer services. And the obvious risk of cannibalizing the physical network, adding more costs to groups that fail to adapt logistics to new requirements.

The full version of the Coop 2020 Report is available from 10.1.21 at http://www.italiani.coop.

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".