How will COVID-19 vaccine impact consumer food demand?

The introduction of vaccines for COVID-19 will likely have some impact on where food is consumed, but the habits developed so far during the pandemic aren’t expected to be completely reversed.

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JurgaR | iStockPhoto.com
JurgaR | iStockPhoto.com

The introduction of vaccines for COVID-19 will likely have some impact on where food is consumed, but the habits developed so far during the pandemic aren’t expected to be completely reversed.

That conclusion was agreed upon by Jarrod Gillig, president, business operations and supply chain, Cargill Protein North America, and Martha Hilton, vice president, produce and floral, Wegmans Food Markets.

Gillig and Hilton spoke on January 11 during the session, “The Post-COVID Consumer – What’s Top of Mind for Them,” during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention, held virtually in 2021.

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agrifood industry has seen a sharp decline in meals eaten at the foodservice level and a sharp increase in people eating more meals at home. However, now with a COVID-19 vaccines being distributed, Gillig and Hilton were asked if they expected those trends to reverse.

Hilton said she thinks some changes will be seen, as more people will want to do more “entertaining and partying,” but she added she didn’t think consumers will return completely to their pre-pandemic behaviors.

“People have learned how to cook at home. They’ve learned how to be more self-sufficient; there’s still this fear of could this happen again,” Hilton said.

Gillig agreed that people are likely to continue to eat at home more than they did before the pandemic. He said eating around the table as family time has become a more valued activity than it had been in a long time, and people will want to continue doing that.

However, he also believes people have an urge to get out that will impact consumption patterns.

“I think there is going to be some pent-up demand that agriculture will see. I’m probably on the pretty hopeful side that we’ll get a little back to normalcy. I don’t know if we’ll see a full trend back to eating out as much as we did, perhaps ... but I also believe there is some pent-up demand that folks will want to get out and celebrate.”

View our continuing coverage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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