EU markets news – Post date: October 13th, 2020.

Coronavirus is currently exploding online commerce

More and more consumers around the world are buying their food online (Fruchthandel, 3 September). In 2020, 350 million more food orders than in 2019 could be placed online (in Germany, France, the UK, Italy and the USA), representing an additional turnover of approximately US$36 billion. Despite the relaxation of Covid-19 protection measures, the trend is expected to continue (up to a 45% increase in online sales compared to the current situation), according to a study “How to Ramp Up Online Grocery-without Breaking the Bank” by management consultants Bain & Company. By mid-April 2020, the market share of food purchased online in the UK had risen to 12.4% (2019: 8.1%), in France from 6 to 10.2%, in the USA from 5.1 to 6.6%, and in Italy from 2 to 4.3%. In Germany, the level is lower although the increase is significant (from 1.5% to 2.9%). However, the study notes that even if the food trade does not need to switch from online sales, the margins generated by orders delivered or collected directly in shops are lower than traditional sales. In the long term, the success of online sales will depend on the reliability of delivery services, the freshness of products and the permanence of purchases.

UK: Covid continues to overshadow the food market

Out-of-home consumption (restaurants, pubs, cafés) has increased since this summer thanks to the “Eat Out to Help Out” programme and price reductions in many outlets (FPC Fresh Talk Daily, 8 October). However, there is a fear that the new restrictive measures will have a negative impact on recovery. According to studies, in June nearly 90% of people said they had cut back on out-of-home food spending to save money, the outlets most affected being coffee shops and take-aways. Analysts predict a 43% drop in take-out food sales in 2020. Take-away sales have been excluded from the Eat Out to Help Out programme. According to Kantar, in August 2020 in the UK there was an increase in food sales of 8% in retail shops and 77% in online sales compared to the same period in 2019. Demonstrating a desire to shop more locally, sales in independent shops and local chain shops increased by 31%.

Austria: Corona boosts organic boom

The share of organic products consumed has been steadily increasing for years, and peaked during the Covid-19 crisis (Fruchthandel, 7 September). According to the latest data from Agrarmarkt Austria (AMA), the quantity of fresh organic food (excluding bread and pastries) purchased in the first half of 2020 increased by 14.4% (compared to 2019), and the value by almost 20%. In June, the share of organic food in the domestic food retail sector reached 10%. In March and April, the scores were low because shops were closed, and in this period many consumers switched to direct orders from producers or delivery subscriptions. Milk and eggs represent the highest proportion of organic products in the retail trade, followed by potatoes, vegetables and fruit yoghurts. On average, a domestic household spent €97 on fresh organic products in the food trade in the first half of this year (+17%).

Switzerland: Sales of Fair Trade products rising again

In 2019, sales of fair trade products increased by 2.6% in one year (Fruchthandel, 16 September). According to the Swiss Fair Trade organisation, Switzerland is the country in the world with the highest annual per capita consumption. Fresh fruit accounted for 21.9% of sales in 2019, with a significant increase in sales between 2011 and 2019 (from 100 million to 180 million Swiss francs). Philipp Scheidiger, Managing Director of Swiss Fair Trade, notes that “Fair Trade has successfully established itself for many typical foods from the South, such as exotic fruits or coffee, and growth is reaching its natural limits. We are also seeing that many consumers are increasingly looking for local or regional product alternatives in this area.”

Cold chain monitoring on the rise: can SMEs benefit?

Consumption of perishable foodstuffs is increasing worldwide, requiring the establishment of efficient supply chains that allow control of the cold chain (FPC Fresh Talk Daily, 11 September). Businesses are not immune to cold chain failures, leading to loss and waste. Large companies may be able to equip themselves with technologies to deal with this (data recording and cold control systems), but what about SMEs located downstream of the cold chain? They have to manage incidents that are upstream of the supply chain, such as temperature variations, exposure of goods to unfavourable conditions, transport delays and mishandling. Today, SMEs are able to monitor what is happening throughout the cold chain thanks to accessible monitoring technologies (sensors, connectivity technology). For example, labels equipped with RFID or QR codes are positioned on individual parcels. They record information like temperature, humidity and ambient light, and even the effects of physical handling such as shocks and tilting. These labels can be scanned, for example using mobile phones, at any stage in the transport process. The internet allows end customers instant access to this recorded data, and the recorded data can be made available to the end recipients of the products. The cost of these labels has become affordable. Finally, blockchain technologies allow transparent and unchangeable record keeping. The supply chain can prevent unscrupulous parties from manipulating product data, ensuring that the information made available to all parties is accurate and precise.

France: First chatbot for fruit and vegetables

“C’est pas des salades”, launched on 22 September, is the first chatbot (conversational robot) for French fruit and vegetables (Végétable, 30 September). To develop this new tool, the team in charge of the project, initiated during a hackathon of the UGPBAN-Murissol-Fruidor-BUFL group, selected Hello Pomelo, a start-up specialised in the development of tailor-made applications. The creation of the tool started by building a database on all French fruit and vegetables. “C’est pas des salades” provides consumers with a wealth of information on French fruit and vegetables in a simple and interactive way. Félicie (for Fruits et légumes d’ici) shares advice and tips, according to different categories: product, choice, consumption, health and conservation, as well as recipes. “C’est pas des salades” is available on Messenger, Facebook’s instant messaging system. A website and a Facebook page complete the bot.

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