2020, without question, is so far delivering plenty of turbulence. COVID-19 is throwing much of the future into question and presenting a daunting public health challenge.

Making accurate predictions now, more than ever, is difficult. However, here are three trends I think we can expect for the rest of the year.

A return to the basics

COVID-19 lockdowns forced people to stay home by closing businesses, schools and public gatherings. Many lost their jobs or saw their income fall due to the pandemic. Others were shocked mentally and became fearful for their health and their families.

During this turbulent period, people turned toward comfort foods. When the panic buying began, shoppers ran for the staples. Moreover, as the next paycheck came into question or disappeared, people were forced to choose food based on price rather than preference.

For the rest of this year, I think Americans will continue this behavior. The more expensive option with enhanced production claims may suffer. I see people less apt to try and adopt a new, more expensive eating habit for its perceived health or social benefit. They will be more likely to pick the cheaper and more familiar item going forward.

The big get bigger

COVID-19 is rocking the economy and may cause a global recession. There’s already pain across the board, but those with greater resources are less tested than those living month to month.

Merchants and travel companies were humbled by the disease due to its effect on social behavior. In the food and dining space, we’ve seen reports of small businesses and restaurants going out of business due to the economic hardship inflicted by the disease. Many returning to business are doing so facing unsustainable conditions.

The COVID-19 pandemic takes demand away from everyone, but the biggest businesses with the greatest access to capital are best positioned to weather the storm. In the future, I expect to see more franchise and chain restaurants and less mom-and-pop places. The question is if the same will happen in the poultry industry, where consolidation and acquisition is a regular occurrence.

A slow return to normalcy

Around the world, restrictions are easing but public health authorities continue to preach social distancing and limitation of gatherings. New cases are declining in some parts of the world but continue to rise or stay level in others.

Americans are still hesitant to return to the social practices of the pre-COVID world. Hallmarks of everyday life – schools, offices, public spaces, restaurants, recreational travel and sports – remain closed, limited or reopened with severe restrictions.

I think its likely COVID-19 will continue to define our future for a longer time than humanity may expect. The disease is stubborn, dangerous and relatively poorly understood with little peer-reviewed research yet conducted on cures and specific treatments and prevention options.

What it means for the poultry industry

For the poultry industry, a return to normalcy would include a normal amount of demand from foodservice clients. However, that demand may take a long time to return to pre-COVID levels and producers will need to adjust their production and processing models to meet a new, retail-oriented demand scheme.

For the rest of 2020, it seems wise to expect the unexpected and be ready for anything. At the plant as well as in the office, heightened social distancing and elevated scrutiny of social distancing and sanitization practices may become the new routine.

Furthermore, international and some domestic travel and industry gatherings may remain suspended or pushed online for the rest of 2020 and possibly further into the future. 

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