Shifting Consumer Behaviors: The Remarkable Transformation of the Foodways System

Signal Theory has a unique view of the foodways system. Because we work with clients across the entire foodways spectrum, we are at the center of it all. That allows us to see how components of the system interact and analyze the impact of events from a holistic perspective. We began writing this white paper before communities across the U. S. were faced with measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. It was intended to be the last paper written using our 2018 data as we transition toward our 2020 data.

Prior to the pandemic, the global foodways system was continuing its remarkable transformation, driven by market demands and continuously improving quality, sustainability and efficiency. This transformation was far more than just how food is grown and processed, it was the focus of many books, exposes and documentaries. It was also about how people demanded transparency and expected quality, affordability and efficiency in whatever context they were making a food decision.

With all this in mind, we adjusted the paper to not only reflect its original intent–the shifting and dynamic nature of consumers’ food acquisition–but also to highlight implications post-COVID-19, whenever that is. In reading this paper, you’ll learn how:

  • Food companies will need to get comfortable in an ever-changing market with no probability of returning to what was considered “normal.” To thrive, they’ll need to test new ideas, quickly adjust, and be masters of collecting and analyzing data.
  • Thinking differently about what food production and retailing means, and collaborating with complementary industries to create the type of seamless experience that consumers want or require.
  • A continuous, deep understanding of consumers’ journeys will be a part of any future, identifying critical moments in which consumers and brands will engage or interact, allowing food producers and retailers to design experiences that build emotional trust.