Developing new products can be a costly and inefficient process, especially when seeking to push boundaries, including enabling nutrition & health claims, and moving to natural and clean formulations. But the challenge is not just technical; the internal dynamic between stakeholders with differing perspectives – marketing, R&D and regulatory – can create a tension that is not always positive.

Even for a global pandemic. The thing is, when Covid-19 first arrived in the UK back in March, that was easier said than done. With frantic shoppers stripping shelves, every single cog in the supply chain hunkered down and focused on ramping up production of core lines.

At the start of the pandemic, retailers and suppliers responded by cutting ranges to maintain availability of core lines. As a quick fix, this worked well and helped remove cost – which will be increasingly important as consumers feel the impact of the recession. Understandably, innovation was put on the backburner.

This possibility means that branded manufacturers have a critical need to focus on their core brands and to simplify their efforts across the portfolio more broadly. The good news for large manufacturers is that the COVID-19 crisis has re-established their market-leading position in many categories. In the 23 weeks ending August 8, 2020, such companies enjoyed 47 percent of all growth in the market, versus only 16 percent from 2015 to 2018. 9 9. McKinsey analysis of Nielsen POS data.

For many big food groups the watch word of the moment appears to be ‘agility’. “Our ability to succeed during this period is largely attributable to our agility at scale,” says Kraft Heinz’s Young. “We are adapting our plans and shifting resources quickly to align with new priorities. We will continue to flex this muscle in the future on how and where we innovate. As consumers have discovered or re-discovered our big, iconic brands, we will have an eye towards how we unlock their full potential going forward.”

“You can’t rely on the consumer going to the retailer anymore. And you never will be able to again”Click to tweet


During the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s more important for a human being than ever to incorporate positive lifestyle habits that can help the human stay healthy and boost their immune system, the body’s complex system that fights infection and disease. The current scenario trending is ‘immunity boosting’ because the consumers are worried about their health and are trying to maintain social distancing during the pandemic.

This isn’t about proliferating ranges, but identifying opportunities to meet unfulfilled needs. Done well, innovation generates new revenue streams, boosts margins and gives people new reasons to visit a store or buy a brand. But doing it well is hard. Firstly, it starts with understanding what the consumer really values. Secondly, businesses must ruthlessly remove everything that doesn’t add value. And finally, companies need to have a detailed understanding of the impact across the end-to-end supply chain.


Hamish Renton, managing director at UK food and drink consultancy HRA Global, suggests the cooking-at-home trend is an area ripe for innovation post-pandemic given it’s anticipated remote working could become one of the new norms in the aftermath of the virus. “In the medium to long term, we are likely to see more interest in meal kits and part-cooked products and probably a move away from ‘prick and ding’ three-minute, microwave-style meals,” says Renton. “If they are working from home, people seem to be happy to spend more time cooking in exchange for more taste and value.”

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