In the Age of Social Distancing, Farmers Go Direct to Consumers
Within the new normal of sweeping changes in how foods and beverages are produced and acquired by consumers, direct to consumer (DTC) has seen a sharp increase in popularity in a wide range of products across various food and beverage categories. This was true even before the rise of COVID-19, with success demonstrated by CPG players like Harry’s and The Honest Company, which were already challenging the oligopoly of "legacy" CPG manufacturers by creating relationships and hyper-specific markets with consumers.
Of interest, the DTC trend has extended to farmers, where amidst the disruption of normal food and beverage supply, distribution and consumption patterns, Reuters reports that:
"Farmers in rural America are expanding food delivery services to meet rising demand from consumers seeking to isolate themselves during the coronavirus pandemic and frustrated by empty grocery-store shelves. ... Farmers said they had supplies and were seeing an uptick in demand for home deliveries in areas where grocery delivery services like Instacart and Amazon.com’s AmazonFresh are not widely available. ‘We’re finding that these farms have a lot of opportunity to step in and prove their value now,’ said Dan Miller, chief executive of Steward, a company that provides capital to sustainable farms and helps them set up e-commerce platforms."
As consumers adapt to new ways of shopping for food in both urban and rural locations, one thing we know from our research is that fresh products, especially with a narrative of farm-direct production, hold a special place of importance in terms of connections to personal wellness, nutrition and sustainability. This is especially true of organic products, which consumers still revere as premium, since they still want quality food in the midst of the pandemic.
While consumers who buy organics do so because they envision growing practices associated with an absence of chemicals and other absences of negatives, they are also driven by strong romanticized notions of the moral ideals of farming. This idealization of farming, as we found in our Organic and Natural 2018 report, stems from the fact that though a majority of "modern" consumers are fundamentally disconnected from food production, they retain a highly idealized picture of how they would like their food to be produced.
Our latest Organic and Beyond 2020 report explores connections consumers are making with organics today and distinctions that extend beyond organic, including topics like regenerative agriculture and soil health. The study, which is currently available, explores notions relating to the fact that while many consumers today interpret the organic seal as signaling the epitome of quality, a growing core of more engaged consumers is starting to demand more as they look for assurances in farming and production cues that go beyond organic.
Organic and Beyond 2020 report
Organic and Natural 2018 report
Newsletter: Is Transitional Farming the New Natural?