Australia’s fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) producers have a role to play in reassuring consumers during the country’s latest period of crisis, and in giving them something to look forward to, a new report says.

Bushfires and floods have already battered Australia’s economy and even before the first cases of the virus were reported in Australia, the country was already feeling the economic impact of the illness, given that Australia is highly dependent on China – where the outbreak began – for exports.

When it became clear that the coronavirus was likely to start directly affecting Australians, many panicked consumers flocked to the shops for fear of being caught without household essentials, with a clamour for toilet paper especially intense.

Researchers IRI Australia’s report, COVID-19: Impact On The Australian FMCG Landscape (available on WARC), charts a huge spike in grocery sales in the two weeks to March 10. It says 84% of categories saw value growth, and in 40 categories, sales were at least 50% higher than in the same period a year ago.

More than 90% of people on IRI’s consumer panel reported taking virus-related action, such as distancing themselves from other people, or stockpiling goods.

Report author and IRI Australia Insights Director Daniel Bone, said FMCG producers and retailers could help ease consumers’ anxiety as they adjust to a new routine and yet another crisis.

Suggestions include:

- draw inspiration from the solidarity and resolve of the bushfire crisis to find ways to help keep citizens safe;

- boost resources allocated to demand planning and supply chains;

- position everyday indulgences as “antidotes to reality”, especially with affordable luxuries such as premium drinks, snacks and confectionery as stress and boredom levels escalate;

- help consumers reengage with the benefits of previously overlooked staples;

- act as a trusted and transparent “human-like” brand;

- be prepared to adjust marketing messaging and channel focus away from out-of-home channels and into digital, particularly social channels that could be used as an “engagement bridge”.

The report noted the role of the FMCG in helping Australians feel safe and protected by ensuring access to fresh, affordable food and essentials. 

“Consumers will place more value than ever on authentic and transparent reassurances,” IRI said. “It is an ideal time to collaborate with industry peers, be empathetic, supportive, helpful and calm. It is an opportunity to showcase brands as trusted partners in helping to keep communities, families and citizens safe and healthy. 

“Doing so will shape brand equity in both the short and long-term. Finding opportunities to implement ‘small acts of kindness’ should be front-of-mind.”

Sourced from IRI Australia