The Food and Beverage Companies That Benefited Most From the Pandemic

March 3, 2021
Boston Consulting-IRI report chronicles 10% growth; Grupo Bimbo was at the top of the list.

A report from Boston Consulting Group and IRI chronicled how and how much food & beverage companies benefited from the pandemic. Grupo Bimbo was at the top of the list.

For all U.S. consumer packaged goods (CPG), dollar sales in measured channels grew 10.4% in 2020 – 4.7 times the growth in 2019. That contrasts with net increases of between 1.4% and 3.0% over the past nine years (since 2012). Both volume (+6.4%) & price/mix (+3.7%) contributed.

Bimbo's sales in those measured channels grew 15.4%, followed by General Mills, Conagra and Mondelez. Eight of the top 10 performers grew more than 10%. While Hershey was not in that high-growth group, the report noted it gained significant market share.

Among mid-sized companies, the report called out Mark Anthony Brands, maker of White Claw hard seltzer, which grew 131% over 2019.

The study also found that small, extra-small and private label CPG manufacturers gained significant market share over larger manufacturers in 2020.

"The 2020 growth leaders won by capitalizing on both one-year spikes and enduring trends," the report noted. Among one-year spikes, the authors cited a sudden and sharp acceleration in historically declining categories – such as at-home food and paper products (the report also covered non-food grocery categories) – which are "likely to revert to historical trends." In sustaining trends, the report lauded the penetration of food & beverage in e-commerce (up 61%) but driven mainly by in-store pickup & delivery.

"Measured channels" in the study are traditional grocers, mass merchandisers and club, convenience, drug and dollar stores.

The report also noted consumer demand shifts: "Significant increase in demand for self-care, at-home indulgence & convenience, taste exploration." And it recommended that, moving forward, CPG companies should focus on five critical priorities:

• Capture growth from demand shifts – invest behind existing brands in attractive demand spaces; complement with strategic mergers & acquisitions.

• Reignite in-store activation as shoppers return to store - re-capture highest in store placement, optimize assortment.

• Further invest ahead of retail shift – develop organization, products & marketing to capture growth in attractive channels (e.g., e-commerce or value).

• Sharpen profit/loss defense – focus on real product advantages, optimize NRM and utilize demand science to develop differentiated insights.

• Create operational resilience – leverage data as new basis of scale and rethink ways of working to increase speed and responsiveness.

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