Consumers have been increasingly focused on health and wellness for years and as a result, trends like sustainability, plant-based, and more have boomed. And as we denoted in our early pandemic consumer research, COVID-19 has only accelerated that focus and expanded what it means for consumers.
“The current transformations and shifts, they were here all along. We’re just moving 15x the speed we were moving before COVID. It’s like VUCA x 11.” – Fe Amarante, Head of Brand Design, Danone
How does this rapidly accelerating shift affect varying industries and categories? What does health, wellness, and well-being mean to consumers? How are corporate leaders adjusting strategy to adapt to changing and accelerating needs, and an increasingly turbulent operating environment?
On August 6, Jason Hauer, Co-Founder & Chief Growth Officer, The Garage Group, chatted with four powerhouse female BigCo leaders during a Courageous Minds Only virtual discussion:
We spent over an hour diving into some of the details of how consumers’ everyday health is shifting during the pandemic and what consumers desire from brands (healthy options, transparency, hope, empathy, and more), but even more so, these leaders shined light on the weight of the challenges BigCo leaders are facing as they are trying to rapidly pivot strategy amid an increasingly uncertain world.
Here are some of the top trends and takeaways:
Plant-Based Is Not Just a Functional Choice
“We’ve been having a lot of conversations about whether or not we are even going to talk about plant-based in a few years.
The reality is people are seeking amazing ways to consume and prepare food. And what we’re seeing right now is that plant-based is one of the elements, but it’s also just amazing food that has no compromises. It’s not a functional choice only, but it’s truly a deliberate choice for something that is going to be indulgent in their everyday life and not just a compromising choice for the betterment of the planet. The betterment of the planet becomes a factor, but the food delivery becomes crucial.” – Fe Amarante, Head of Brand Design, Danone
Innovation Around Infrastructure, Supply Chain, & Data Analytics Is Key
“Supply chain has never been a hip and cool part of the company to be in until now; that’s the heartbeat of post-COVID, right?
People are looking at innovative solutions to think through the supply chain to make it more agile, to get to last mile delivery a lot faster. So I think that component definitely has changed where innovation is more expensive, not only in terms of the way we go to market from a marketing or product standpoint, but also innovation around infrastructure.
I talked earlier about data analytics; we’re actually working with a lot of partners to really think about how we leverage data to help us think through and keep a pulse on the future so we can manage through all the way from supply to our customer support level. The world we operate in is influenced by illnesses. And if people are not going out or in close contact with each other, you’re not going to see a lot of people getting sick. And they’re taking care of themselves with high-quality food. So, how do we make sure that we think it through, to manage all the way back to the back-end and supply and inventory management?” – Claudine Patel, VP, Marketing, Upper Respiratory, RB
Develop Health & Wellness Technology that Integrates with Peoples’ Lives
“I work in connected health and so more than ever, real-time feedback and evidence-based analysis are crucial in how you’re tracking what you’re learning.
That has accelerated, but it’s not as much about the device as much as it’s about the experience. With the acceleration and focusing on our apps, our user interfaces are critical in really helping people understand the trade-offs of how our products work with their lifestyles.
A lot of times apps fail or these new technologies fail because they don’t work within the realities of your day-to-day. And when there are so many things going on, especially if you’re a parent right now and wearing multiple hats at home, how are you able to juggle all these things using our technologies? And so, I think there’s a huge personal health shift in how we’re communicating nutrition with those device technologies.” – Jada Britto, Senior Global Brand Design Lead – Oral Care, Colgate
Uncover Invisible Stress & Turn It into Something Positive
“Pre-COVID, anxiety and stress were roaring up.
To your point about logistics and ensuring the continuity of the food supply, when the pandemic started, all of a sudden you had a different population of employees managing that 24/7. How do you keep everyone engaged?
So, for me, it was just about how do we inspire mindsets in a really positive way to keep people engaged? And, from my perspective, find the hidden sources of stress. Stress is one of those words that I think gets underestimated, yet can limit the ability for people to continue to contribute. We’re talking about design and creativity. Stress can shrink our ability to be able to be a part of that process versus an expansive opportunity, and I think we’ve paid a lot of attention to the impact on employees and within teams.
If we can uncover invisible stress and turn it into something positive, that’s advancement.” – Dondeena Bradley, Global VP, Nutrition & Well-Being, Barilla
The More Transparent You Can Be, the Better
“The transparency aspect is so critical right now more than ever. We used to say, “We smell BS a mile away.” No, we smell BS instantly now.
And even another trend that we’ve been following is open sourcing of data from health. We’re used to hearing the word ‘open source’ when you’re talking about sharing from a digital aspect, but now it’s the open sourcing of experts with what we’re experimenting with and what we’re playing with or just new innovations.
We’re not so secretive anymore. We’re more about just sharing and dumping and not worrying about, “How much is this going to cost?” or the barriers.” – Jada Britto, Senior Global Brand Design Lead – Oral Care, Colgate
Using Data Analytics to Pivot & Keep a Pulse on Consumers
“It’s funny because I just looked at the brand plans we did at the beginning of the year and I realized that we didn’t execute on anything post-March. Everything has changed.
I always get asked (actually the last couple of weeks especially), “What’s a forecast?” and, “What do we see for consumers as we think about going into the new normal or the next normal?” however we want to call it… And the truth of the matter is I don’t know. I don’t think anybody does.
What I would say, though, is we’re trying to understand the impact of this and what we think will happen. So, we’ve used both qualitative and quantitative data, especially as it relates to consumer behavior. There are health trends out there. We’re creating a vision in terms of what the new normal looks like.
There’s going to be a lot more digital savviness as people think about a new way of being mentally prepared. They’re thinking about new ways of looking at food, looking at entertainment. But, having said that, I think it’s more how we learn to, with our vision or with what we think we know, pivot along the way because in the next one week, two weeks, anything can happen. Is the second wave of COVID really coming in September? Is it not?
I think these are just questions that we constantly have in our head and we want to prepare ourselves and our brands for it, not so much even for our business, but also for the consumer’s needs. If they need enough medicine, enough food and they need to go to the shelves. Will we have enough supply? Will we be able to communicate with them in a meaningful way in terms of providing them information that they need?
So, I think the data actually helps us keep a pulse on how we pivot. I’ve been leaning a lot on that, a lot on data, recently, and more predictive analytics than anything else just because I’m fascinated with how the world is changing and shaping. The traditional tools of research, we’re still using them, but data analytics and predictive data analytics more so is what I’m relying on now to help me think through the next 12 months, the next 16 months until we get out of this.” – Claudine Patel, VP, Marketing, Upper Respiratory, RB
Humanize Sustainability, Data, & Business Models
“I’ll step back and take a global view. Some of these things have been around for a while, but I think what’s different is the sense of urgency and the mobilization to prioritize and make some quick decisions. When I look at humanizing sustainability, it’s always been there as a concept, but when I look at the Green Deal coming through with farm to fork, and I think about, again, the mindset behind that is really a global collective view. And when you look at the disparity, and you think about a billion people without food around the world; food insecurity is right in our face in a completely new way.
I really feel an urgency, honestly, when I think about some of the initiatives that I’ve participated in the past around food deserts and value, and how we think about scale and products. We are at a time when we can actually really rethink our business models in a way that can really bring hope and a different look at food insecurity in this world.
That’s where I’m really thinking through AI, as an example, and data patterns and behavior patterns and the massive amount of data that’s being collected about how we shop. What about how we live and how do we bring all that together so that we are managing through some of these inequalities?” – Dondeena Bradley, Global VP, Nutrition & Well-Being, Barilla
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