Will we be buying snacks online in a post-pandemic world? Big brands hope the answer might be yes.
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It's remarkable how much our daily lives have changed in the past two months. For millions, the nature of work and school shifted overnight. The process of what, where, and when we eat — not to mention how we acquire food — has undergone some serious changes as well.

Case in point: we're buying more food online than ever before. According to data from the market researchers at Nielsen, online food sales for the week ending May 2, 2020 were up 66 percent from the same (non-pandemic) week in 2019. Of all the online shopping categories, food buying had the biggest growth in e-commerce sales over that period. That's a significant change given a 2019 Gallup Poll found that 81 percent of 1,500 responding adults had never shopped for groceries online.

At a time when pretty much the entire food world is figuring out how to adjust its supply chains and production processes, snack brands are seeing the rise of online buying as an opportunity. This week, PepsiCo launched Snacks.com, a direct-to-consumer marketplace for its Frito-Lay snack portfolio of brands like Cheetos, Doritos, Rold Gold, and the like. Similarly, Pantryshop.com sells Pepsico products ranging from cereals to Gatorade and protein powder.

While PepsiCo e-commerce head Gibu Thoms told CNN Business that the goal of these sites is to "give the consumer another choice" at a time when Amazon and other retailers might not have what they want, he admitted that they could end up changing how the company sells to consumers if it's successful.

They're not the only company in the soft drink space thinking about direct to consumer online sales. A recent Coca-Cola earnings call found CEO James Quincey speaking of "an upsurge in e-commerce across the globe, with the growth rate of the channel doubling in many countries."

Other brands with existing direct to consumer options are ramping up their efforts. Hershey is expanding its "Fresh from the Factory" program to include more frequent offerings and additional brands, including special offers on a rotating basis.

At this point, it's hard to predict which pandemic-induced changes will fade away with time and which will become part of our new normal. But now that buying snacks and groceries online suddenly feels less strange than it used to, don't be surprised if big brands try to use this as an opportunity to cut out the middleman.

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