Trends in fresh fruits and vegetable (FFV) consumption in a post-covid economy 

May 16, 2020

Covid-19 outbreak has exposed major weak linkages and flaws in the FFV supply chain worldwide. In India newspapers are overwhelmingly filled with woeful stories of farmers having to throw away their fresh produce in the absence of market access as well as presence of a long supply chain that limits access to direct buyers. It is very likely that the economic loss in this sector coupled with the consumer side scarcity during the lockdown will accelerate long term changes in the supply chain of FFV and consumer behaviour in general. 

While the rest of the world had caught up to the online retail chains in this sector, in India online retailers in FFV might now diffuse and enter smaller cities chains in areas beyond Metros. Online retailers in various sectors across the globe have spiked, and a similar trend is observed in the home delivery options in FFV sector. The FFV supply chain is very vulnerable because of the short shelf life of the products. The FFV industry has suffered huge losses due to the closure and/or drastic reduction in the hospitality and tourism sector, as well as reduced usage in school programs and airplane meals. 

India has combated this situation heads-on and shown promising policy decisions in agriculture that could help alleviate the situation by opening the APMC markets to private players, injecting huge investments and funds to ensure minimum support price (MSP) purchases by the government, taking additional steps in the supply chain to be self-reliant and improvise the farm gate infrastructure for farmers. 

Here are some trends that could be expected in context of consumer behaviour: 

Home-delivery is here to stay 

One of the biggest barriers of online shopping – The lack of trust in internet shopping especially for fresh fruits and vegetables has most likely been overcome during the compulsory need to buy online to avoid contagion. This initial adoption of online services can be expected to stick around for most people due to convenience factors and the fear of contagion by in-person shopping when the lockdown measures are lifted. As more and more people are ordering groceries online under the fear of contagion, this is likely to stick as a habit even after the lockdown measures have been lifted while the social distancing measures most likely to remain in place. 

Safety concerns and fear of contagion

Amidst the lockdown, while online platforms were often overwhelmed and there was a waiting period for deliveries, there have been reports of local shops showing a sudden surge in sales. However, in various parts of the country, vegetable vendors – that fall under the category of essential workers, were suspected to be super-spreaders, stopping the sale of even fresh fruits and vegetables under complete lockdown imposition. This could likely cause a reluctance to continue buying locally with the combination of habit sticking (for online shopping) and no long waiting time for the fresh produce to arrive at home.   

The concern for food safety has been higher post the covid-19 outbreak and this can be expected to continue in post-covid economy. There has been an increasing trend in consumer interest for healthier and immunity boosting food options. Although, most health organizations have maintained that the contagion through consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables is highly unlikely, have advised thorough washing . However, health agencies have warned of the dangers of exposure to the virus while handling of cash transaction. This push might further create an impetus for cashless transactions in FFV sector. 

Appreciation for fresh fruits and vegetables and joy of cooking!

Amidst the lockdown panic buy, in several locations outside India, there had been a surge of canned food, processed meat, frozen food etc. While, in India with its general consumer avoidance to highly processed or canned foods, Indians had stuck to stocking up longer shelf life products like grains and lentils as safe-net. At least for the privileged sections of the society with FFV access, the lockdown combined with limited access to restaurant style food, has engaged more people to learn new cooking skills to create delicious and healthy meals right at home and find joy in that. Social media that were previously filled with travel pictures are now increasingly filled with lockdown cooking posts! People seem to be engaging more with their food and appreciating the presence of fresh fruits and vegetables while making healthier food choices. 

As any health convert will tell you once you are hooked to making healthier choices, you tend to stick to them, and this could hold true for post-covid economy as well. Regardless, the restaurants and hospitality businesses are not expected to be back in business at the same scale as before in the foreseeable future due to social distancing measures and general fear for crowded places and hence this loss needs to be compensated by channelizing them into retail market.

As India prepares to open its economy and with the promising changes and investments in the agriculture sector, we must be prepared to continue supporting our farmers and help the economy by continued consumption of fruits and vegetables! Even health bodies like UNICEF are promoting continued consumption of fruits and vegetables with reduced processed foods consumption. So India, let us consume more fruits and vegetables by shopping through sources that ensure higher returns for farmers and ensure your safety in the process. Do good, stay safe. 

 

AGROWAVE IN POST-COVID ECONOMY:  

During the lockdown period, we are excited to announce that we have decided to enter the B2C market in FFV supply chain. We managed to hold true to our mission statement to help the farmers sell their produce when they have suffered huge losses under restricted transportation measures and provide benefits to the society in general by providing essentials during their time of need. 

We continue to serve as a business and hold true to our business ethic of providing great quality of services even in a post-covid economy where we are making the following changes to adapt to the expected trends in the industry: 

  1. Home-delivery: We have now started catering to retail customers in addition to businesses to provide fresh and affordable fresh produce right at your doorstep at no added delivery cost! 
  2. Health and safety concerns: We have provided our delivery executives &  supply chain managers with PPEs (personal protection equipment) like gloves, masks and we have trained them to use utmost hygiene measures so that you don’t have to worry about contagion issues. We also do online transaction so that you are not subjected to cash handling- which is cited as a high concern for spreading the virus. 
  3. Health and nutrition: As more and more people are enjoying to cook at home, we make sure we deliver top notch quality of vegetables and fruits including exotics like mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli and beautiful red and yellow bell peppers to ensure your cooking experience is both healthy and nutritious. 
  4. Affordability: We continue to offer great prices and affordable rates to our customers by cutting middlemen and reducing the final cost for customers, and have several interesting offers lined up for our customers. So even when the economy is unstable you can count on food being affordable!  

 

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