The COVID-19 global pandemic changed how – and where – consumers purchase chicken.

“When you think about the massive and unprecedented changes we’re seeing during the global pandemic, new habits are being formed in the vast majority of households during the shelter-at-home more than any other time than in history,” said Richard Fielding, principal, Media Center of Excellence at IRI.

Fielding discussed the ways COVID-19 affected chicken consumers on Wednesday, May 13 during How to Build your chicken brand during a pandemic. The presentation was the first in the Chicken Marketing Summit series of seven webinars, proudly sponsored by Zoetis. Registration for the webinar series is free.

During the webinar, he highlighted six emerging consumer trends as especially important:

Purchase cycles expand and contract

Stay-at-home measures implemented as a result of COVID-19 made consumers panic buy at grocery stores, filling freezers with chicken and other proteins to reduce the number of trips out. In the meantime, foodservice demand decreased dramatically, as schools and hotels have closed and restaurants have shifted to takeout and delivery only.

New shopping behaviors

Shoppers, afraid to go out, are turning to delivery services and other forms of ecommerce to purchase chicken for their households.

Long-term consumer trends reverse

“Long-term consumer trends moving towards organic and more natural foods have seemingly reversed overnight. We are seeing a return towards consumers wanting shelf-stable and added preservative products,” Fielding explained.


Comfort foods are king

Comfort brands, such as Kraft Mac & Cheese, have seen significant increases in sales during the global pandemic. In the poultry industry, stress-baking contributed to a nationwide egg shortage.

Broader adoption of self-care

COVID-19 concerns have led to increases in exercise, diet and the use of over-the-counter medications and dietary supplements.

More flexibility in trying new brands

Plant closures due to COVID-19 have impacted the meat supply chain, driving consumers to new products based on what is available in stores.

“Consumers are showing an increased openness and willingness to try new categories and brands. This is driven by a limited assortment and product substitution,” Fielding said. “IRI benchmarks show that if you reach new brand buyers within four weeks of their first purchase, you will on average convert 13% of them into repeat customers.”

View our continuing coverage of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

Like what you just read? Sign up now for free to receive the Poultry Future Newsletter.