22 June 2020, 08:37 AM
  • A new survey asked for input from local food and drink companies to help businesses navigate the future
Sector seeks to understand long-term impact of changing consumer behaviour

As independent retailers and SMEs in the food and drink industry consider what the future of their business may look like, many will likely be wondering about the role they play in their local community moving forward.

Throughout lockdown, many consumers have turned to locally owned businesses and SMEs as they seek to support small and British-run companies that needed their business during the pandemic, but also to enjoy a more personal experience.

As shops reopen, many question whether new customers will stay loyal to independent retailers they’ve discovered during lockdown.

Keen to see whether these changes to shopping habits are here to stay, Dumfries and Galloway-based food and drink organisation Savour the Flavours recently launched a survey to assess whether local firms that delivered essentials to people during lockdown will continue to receive support from shoppers. The company plans to use the findings to help other small businesses plan for reopening to help cater to the needs of their community and customers.

Liz Ramsay of Savour the Flavours said: “It’s really important that local businesses understand what their local communities want, so they can make the best possible decisions. [This is why we sought] feedback from local people to help inform this – the last thing any small business should be doing is spending thousands investing in fancy new digital systems that people won’t use. Businesses need to understand how people are likely to shop over the next few months, and what products and services they want to buy.”

Keen to create a platform for those in the industry, Savour the Flavours is also hosting weekly online meetings for local food, drink and hospitality businesses to discuss emerging issues and share knowledge with others in their sector.

The company isn’t the only one eager to better understand what customers want post-COVID-19 as businesses navigate the ‘new normal’ way of shopping and operation. Online deliveries have been growing over the years, but a recent report further showed the opportunities that online grocery shopping presents independent retailers.

The UK’s largest community of food and drink entrepreneurs, Bread & Jam, has also been discussing the topic with business owners. The company’s recent webinar delved into how the pandemic has changed the way consumers shop and behave, and what this change means for the food and beverage industry.

Meanwhile, key industry figures have also been coming together to help food businesses as they reopen with a ‘path to recovery’ report that proposes steps to help future-proof the industry.

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