Brands are developing tools and content designed to reach people spending more time at home, writes Dan Calladine.  

One of the biggest trends to come out of the pandemic was ‘Lockhome Syndrome’ – people living more distanced lives, working from home, spending far more time within their own four walls and, importantly, eating at home. According to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), the number of meals people eat outside the home has dropped to between 5% and 10% in the UK, meaning people are buying packaged goods more than ever before.

As lockdowns are eased, there are indications some of these habits will remain. Proprietary research by dentsu about European cooking habits in 2021 suggests that 30% of people in the UK say they are passionate about cooking and plan to continue to cook more at home. In Denmark, the figure climbs to 46%.

Equally, research from Nestlé says once we start to return to work, 48% are likely to have their first cup of coffee at home before their commute, according to food publication Food Dive. The research, conducted in the US in March 2021, also suggests another 35% are likely to make their lunch at home and bring it into work.

Lockdowns have also changed media habits, accelerating the shift to digital, much to the benefit of connected TV and streaming through services like Netflix, gaming and esports on platforms like Twitch and even podcast listening on apps like Spotify. 

New ways of maintaining brand availability

Even after lockdowns are eased everywhere, brands need to make sure that people can discover and buy their products just as easily from the sofa as they would in-store.

In big cities, we have seen the acceleration of a new sector – on-demand grocery deliveries. Apps like Weezy and Getir promise to bring a range of branded products within 10 to 15 minutes, essentially like Deliveroo does (Deliveroo is also in this space, but delivers less quickly). The apps are cheap and convenient, with some charging as little as £1.80 for a delivery, and free delivery on orders over £10, making them very attractive to consumers. 

We have also seen the growing popularity of meal kits in many markets, offering a hybrid of the convenience of ready meals with the feeling of cooking from scratch. Gousto reports that its sales doubled, and is now hiring 1,000 more staff to cope with the demand. Nestlé bought meal kit brand SimplyCook in February 2021 and, in April, announced a partnership with Tesco to introduce a bespoke range. 

Restaurant brands unable to open during the pandemic have also introduced their own meal kits, either sold directly or via platforms like Restaurant Kits. Some restaurants are also blurring the boundaries between eating out and eating at home with the creation of their own branded packaged goods. In the UK, for example, Hawksmoor is selling steaks on Ocado, and Pret is selling part-baked croissants at Tesco.

Brands are developing tools and content designed to reach people spending more time at home.

Barilla pasta made a selection of playlists on Spotify in Italy, each the exact length to cook a variety of pasta, so that home cooks could have more fun while they waited for their food to be ready. Pepsi produced a recipe hub to give inspiration for how people could use their brands in cooking – for example, fried chicken flavoured with Mountain Dew.

Brands have also jumped on new media trends. For example, M&M’s held a 'virtual watch party' in December 2020 where up to 5,000 fans were able to watch the Alan Partridge movie for free on a site hosted by the brand, as a remote but collective experience.

Finally, we have seen new product development influenced by the desire to eat restaurant food again. Walkers introduced a limited-edition range in partnership with restaurants like Nando's to bring flavours such as Peri-Peri chicken back into people's homes.

What it means for marketers

As we come out of lockdown, the big question is how much of this behaviour is likely to remain?  Initial research suggests some will. For example, Shopify reports that 40% of people plan to do at least 40% of their grocery shopping online, up from 25% before the pandemic, but lower than the 50% seen during the lockdowns. There is also a feeling that many people will not give up their streaming subscriptions and put away their game consoles. New habits have been formed.

Assuming that people will be still suffering from ‘Lockhome Syndrome’ for the next few years, brands need to adapt. 

More people will be at home for more days of the week, which means people will have access to broadband and multiple screens throughout the day, but also that they will be home to receive packages. However, they will want guarantees their items will be delivered on a specific day or within a given timeframe.

Brands should continue to create online experiences. People have become increasingly used to remote events, and greater numbers may now be willing to sign up for online classes and other happenings. These also give brands access to first-party data which will help them to understand customers more.

It is time to invest in connected TV advertising. While some formats currently look like standard web banners, YouTube, Amazon and others are working on ads which interact with the second screen. We will soon be seeing even fully integrated shoppable TV ads. These could be game changers within three years.

Finally, show products being used at home in your advertising!

To find out more about the Future of consumer goods marketing, review Carat’s new CPG reports.