With sales of foods and beverages surging during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies across the food and beverage industry spectrum — ranging from grocery retail to restaurant operators to diverse food and beverage manufacturers — are giving back to support relief efforts for consumers impacted by both health and economic shocks. Food Dive recently detailed how manufacturers large and small are donating products to medical professionals, farmers, food banks, and others in appreciation of those putting themselves at risk for the "greater good" during this crisis. In addition to programs implemented to protect the health and safety of their employees (and in many cases providing bonuses and salary increases), companies are also making commitments to donate a portion of their profits to organizations fighting hunger and other crucial causes during this crisis, reinvesting some of the windfall they’re seeing in order to help locally.

Nonprofit organizations have sprung up to help harness the good intentions of both restaurants and CPG firms alike: Feed the Fearless, Frontline Foods, and Off Their Plate share a commonality in trying to give back to healthcare workers while providing business to restaurants that may be suffering economically from the effects of the pandemic. One example is #FoundersGive, which works with dozens of CPG brands to donate snacks and beverages to New York City-area hospitals.

As companies give back, charitable actions taken by food industry members can have a particularly profound and long-lasting effect on consumer sentiment toward a brand. One reason: our Sustainability 2019: Beyond Business as Usual report found that consumers — who used to think that they as individuals were responsible for problems linking to sustainability (which includes things like workers’ rights, animal welfare, and a safe environment) — are increasingly turning to large companies and governments to take action and accountability for the well-being of our greater good. Even prior to the pandemic, consumers were seeing the topic of employee welfare as very important and as a powerful purchase driver, with 65% saying it is important that a company provide good wages and benefits to its employees. Our Sustainability 2019 report found that consumers are more inclined to see sustainability as a complete moral system; so, the more a company can talk about that entire system of personal, social, economic, and environmental responsibility, the more it will resonate with consumers.

Our recent podcast, Food as Medicine: How Can the Food Industry Support Communities in Need? examines how the pandemic has had a profound impact on not only individuals but entire communities—some more disproportionately than others. In the podcast, our analysts discuss the idea of how the “me affects the we” and how the pandemic has shed a spotlight on how we are all connected.

Further reading and listening: