US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

Smart Vending Machines: The Touchless Future in On-Demand Foodservice is a Robot

Regional grocery store Heinen’s is an early adopter of Chowbotics’ product Sally, a salad making robot. Initially positioned as a way to make fresh food (e.g., salads, grain bowls, breakfast bowls) available as a grab-and-go option in hospitals, colleges, and other institutional settings. However, the grocery market took on a new urgency as the coronavirus pandemic drove consumers away from self-serve salad bars and as consumers flocked to grocery stores instead of restaurants.  

While many grocery stores switched to offering pre-made salad options, others turned their self-serve bars into a full-service option with staff making customized salads on-demand. However, Sally gives stores a chance to offer a touch-free solution to consumer demand for quick customized salads or similar meals while allowing staff to concentrate on other tasks. The customization is important as many consumers prefer choosing their own toppings – e.g., no croutons or extra croutons, light or heavy dressing, nuts or no nuts, and amounts of pungent items such as onions and peppers.

Chowbotics is also developing a fully touch-free innovation that would allow customers to order via an app and scan a QR code at the machine to have that exact order produced.

For more information on discussion of opportunities, see Packaged Facts’ Food & Beverage industry coverage, including Food Carryout & Delivery and Food Carryout & Delivery: Special COVID-19 Consumer Insights and The Freedonia Group’s analysis of the packaging industry, including to-go containers in Foodservice Single-Use Products and Global Foodservice Single-Use Products. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Industrial Components      Machinery & Equipment    

Booming RV Industry Benefits Supplier Industries Too

The recreational vehicle industry is booming as Americans look for ways to vacation while limiting potential COVID infection points such as hotels, restaurants, and public restrooms. An investment like this has become increasingly attractive to the many travelers who are unsure they will ever be taking long trips packed with other travelers into a train, a bus, or an airplane or at least not for the foreseeable future.

Families are also using these as places to work remotely or as a classroom space for children who are not yet able to join a conventional classroom setting.

Others are finding the open road to be an attractive place to work. This trend, which had already been underway, is expanding as many white collar workers are now untethered from the conventional office space due to the pandemic and many offices are expecting to have generous work-from-home plans for the next year or beyond.

So beyond the RV manufacturers and vendors, themselves, who else also benefits from this boom?

  • Vehicle companies that make the base chassis of converted vans and motorhomes
  • Suppliers of engines and electric power generators as well as tires and other vehicle components
  • Suppliers of construction elements such as cabinets, countertops, flooring, plumbing fixtures and fittings, small sizes of kitchen appliances, lighting fixtures, and coated fabrics for awnings, pop-up tent components, and all-weather upholstery
  • Suppliers of creature comforts such as consumer electronics and furniture, from couches and tables to beds
  • Suppliers of outdoor recreation products – e.g., grills, outdoor chairs & tables, motorcycles – which are used along with recreational vehicles

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in Construction and Building Products and with reports such as Outdoor Furniture & Grills, Global Motorcycles, Global Diesel Engines, Global Buses, General Purpose Lighting Fixtures, and Recreational Vehicles. Freedonia also offers an expanding catalog of COVID-19 Economic Impact reports, which highlight how various industries are responding to the current crisis with a comparison to recent recessions. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Elevator Concerns in the Era of Coronavirus

A large portion of the population is concerned about riding in elevators in the age of coronavirus. Building owners worry that if employees and others are afraid to ride elevators (to get to work or their homes), they will see occupants break their leases and a  subsequent spike in building vacancies.

To provide a safer elevator environment, the Center for Disease Control recommends a few basic steps be taken in multifamily facilities, and these measures also apply for commercial buildings:

  • cleaning and disinfecting shared areas such as elevators using EPA-registered disinfectants more than once a day, if possible
  • minimizing traffic in enclosed spaces such as elevators
  • providing alcohol-based sanitizers in common areas, including outside elevators

In general, however, elevators are well-ventilated spaces with fans that run to keep the air refreshed. Additionally, most people are only in elevators for a few moments. Thus the duration of any potential exposure is short, well below the 15 minutes that is generally considered the threshold for exposure could lead to enough viral load to spread COVID-19.

According to The Freedonia Group’s National Online Consumer Survey conducted in May 2020, 79% of adults agreed that the coronavirus is a health threat to them personally, and 86% agreed that it is a health threat to their family and friends. These people will look to building owners to help instill more confidence that large buildings are safe to navigate.

Additional steps to mitigate public worry that are recommended by elevator companies and being undertaken by some building owners include:

  • requiring masks be worn in common areas such as elevators
  • limiting elevator occupancy to a level that allows for appropriate social distancing
  • recommending businesses and other occupants stagger their arrival times
  • installing signage that suggests occupants refrain from talking while riding elevators and face away from other riders

For more information, see the following data-rich market analysis reports from The Freedonia Group’s off-the-shelf research catalog, including Global Elevators, Global Filters, Global Housing, Consumer Air Treatment, and HVAC Equipment, as well as Focus Reports including Commercial Banking: United States and Professional Services: United States. Freedonia also offers an expanding catalog of COVID-19 Economic Impact reports, which highlight how various industries are responding to the current crisis with a comparison to recent recessions. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence


COVID-19 Pandemic & Rise of Electric Vehicles Continue to Affect Refining Industry

Like many other segments of the economy, petroleum refiners have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Steep declines in air travel have caused demand for highly profitable jet fuels to plummet, while US consumers – many of whom now have zero-mile commutes – use far less gasoline. Thus, refiners – like downstream producers and other petroleum industry participants – have seen declines in profitability.

A recent article showcased the difficulties faced by the refining sector. While demand for gasoline and some other petroleum products has largely rebounded as shelter-in-place orders have been lifted, jet fuel use remains low, causing refiners to move to keep facilities closed or to operate at lower capacities, further affecting their profitability.

Furthermore, another threat looms on the horizon: the potential of the electric vehicle, which largely obviate the need for gasoline. While many are familiar with Tesla, a number of other firms are looking to enter the electric vehicle market. Monday’s announcement that Lordstown Motor Company – a firm dedicated to the manufacture of electric pickup trucks – would be going public as part of a reverse merger, demonstrated the continuing interest in electric vehicles. The more widespread introduction of electric-powered trucks and automobiles would cause severe disruptions to refiners, as a key end use for their products would slowly shrink. While packaging has boosted the fortunes of many refiners due to heightened interest in single-use plastics, this, too is not expected to last, especially once the COVID-19 pandemic passes.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including an expanding catalog of COVID-19 Economic Impact reports, which highlight how various industries are responding to the COVID-19 with a comparison to historical recessions. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Automotive & Transport      Chemicals      Covid-19      Energy & Petroleum      Machinery & Equipment    

Automation: Our Ticket to Living With the Possibility of Endemic COVID-19

The conversation is shifting to how do we live with COVID-19, as more experts believe it will become endemic.

Touchless technologies and automation will likely be among the things key to successful reopening. Opportunities exist in:

  • Touchless plumbing – no-touch faucets, toilet flushes, soap dispenser, hand dryers, towel dispensers
  • Automatic doors – moving beyond grocery store and big-box entrances to office entrances and public restrooms
  • Keyless/touchless entry – rise of facial recognition (a contact-free biometric system) for allowing access
  • Contactless payment systems – online ordering, even for in-store or pick-up purchases, and rise of mobile payment options (e.g., Apple Pay, Paypal, Venmo)
  • Automated manufacturing – enables improved physical distancing among workers and makes reshoring strategic industries more cost effective

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s coverage of plumbing products,windows and doors, and other construction and building products; as well as security reports and info about payments cards and services from our sister publisher Packaged Facts. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Machinery & Equipment