Covid-19: Food companies turn to online platforms amid social distancing

28 Mar 2020

Web conferencing and other online platforms have surged amid global advice to practise social distancing as the novel coronavirus outbreak continues. How are food companies making the most of online tools to reach their customers?

People are social animals, so the concept of social distancing has inspired many to look for other ways to interact, even as they avoid physical meetings. This includes finding ways to interact on a social level, but increasingly, businesses are leveraging online resources as well. For some companies, this could be as simple as adopting online conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts to conduct meetings, but others have taken web-based business to another level.

Covid-19: Food companies turn to online platforms amid social distancing
Industry is using a wide range of web tools during the Covid-19 crisis

Puratos and Bakeronline, for instance, have launched a service to help bakers set up a webshop platform for free so they can continue selling to their customers during the crisis. The online service allows customers to order online and pay digitally so bakers can better manage their orders while minimising physical contact. Shoppers can then collect orders with an order number at a given time.

Puratos has also noted the many ways in which bakeries, patisseries and chocolatiers have adapted around the world, including offering home deliveries and drive-through services, offering online baking courses, and minimising their usual product range.

Online ordering platforms for food and agricultural ingredients were already on the rise before the current crisis, but uptake has accelerated and diversified. In France, with local markets closed, producers have united to set up an online platform so consumers can choose a basket of locally produced foods for home delivery. Some supermarkets also have vowed to buy more local products to help ease pressure on the local economy.

The spread of the virus has led to many of the industry’s biggest events to be cancelled, likely resulting in many missed partnership and business opportunities. However, such cancellations are leading some marketers to re-evaluate how they deliver digital content, and to offer more personalised approaches. Sweets & Snacks Expo, for example, was due to take place in Chicago in May. Announcing its cancellation, the event organisers said they intended to enhance their distance learning schedule to bring more value to exhibitors and attendees.

Artificial intelligence platforms that explore connections in food and agricultural systems are also likely to come into their own during the crisis. UK-based Agrimetrics, for instance, aims to ensure better understanding of the relationships in global food networks, in order to avoid potentially catastrophic chains of events – such as those that could come about as supply chains are disrupted.
The food industry is considered an essential industry all over the world, meaning that finding alternative ways of doing business is a necessity – for governments and consumers, as well as for companies themselves. As the ongoing crisis unfolds, the innovative solutions that suppliers and manufacturers develop to manage their supply chains are likely to influence how the industry does business well into the future.

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