General Merchandise/HBC

How COVID-19 Vaccine Could Affect CPG

IRI, RBC Capital Markets predicts 2021 growth
man shopping
Photograph: Shutterstock

CHICAGO — Even as COVID-19 vaccines start rolling out in the United States, not everyone will choose to be vaccinated.

Krishnakumar (KK) Davey, president of strategic analytics at Chicago-based market research firm IRI, and Nik Modi, managing director at RBC Capital Markets, New York, spoke during an IRI webinar on how this could affect consumer packaged goods sales in convenience stores and other retail outlets.

Men, seniors, high-income and urban consumers are more interested in getting the vaccine as soon as it’s available than the general public, Davey said.

When consumers were asked in an IRI survey in mid-November if they planned on getting a COVID-19 vaccine once available, 20.5% said they plan to get it as soon as possible, 17.9% said they will likely wait a few months after it is available to get it, 24.2% said they are not planning to get it, 28.1% are not sure whether they will get it and 9.3% said they will likely wait at least six months after it is available to get it.

How the next year will play out is still up in the air, but Modi said he predicts that by March and April of 2021, coronavirus case counts will begin to decline, and the vaccine distribution will increase to people outside of health care.   

It may take until September 2021 and beyond, Modi said, for herd immunity to being and for consumers to resume to some sense of normalcy.

Retailers may see some growth in 2021 compared to 2019, Davey said.

“There are several paths to what can potentially happen next year,” he said. “Like this year, we just need to be alert and agile and to seize opportunities,”

In 2021, total dollar sales growth for CPGs are expected to be up compared to 2019 but down compared to 2020, Davey said. But these predictions will depend on several factors.

Earlier distribution of the vaccine will increase mobility and drive more consumption away from home, he said. If the economy is slow to recover and stimulus packages are small, though, growth may be affected and lead to consumers shopping for more value. Finally, CPG pricing is likely to moderate due to promotions, better availability and more intense competition.

With all the uncertainty, what growth opportunities are there for CPG players in 2021?

Retailers can strategically leverage assortment, pricing and promotion by to enhance growth. Solutions and assortments should aim at retaining millennial and high-income households that are the most likely to increase away-from-home spending as mobility restrictions ease, IRI recommends.

Boomers and seniors are most likely to retain restricted shopping behaviors, so work to be part of their limited consideration, Davey said.  

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