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.

Summer is Coming…Vacci-cation, Anyone?

Through the coronavirus pandemic, many workers with paid time off benefits chose to hoard their time off: waiting for economic or job stability…waiting for events to resume…waiting for resorts to reopen…waiting for international travel to open up or become easier…waiting for enough of a sense of safety to explore and gather.

2020 was a time of backyard staycations. Homeowners installed pools, patios, fire pits, outdoor movie screens, and outdoor kitchens. They nurtured gardens and bought comfy furniture and portable heaters. They made their yards a place to gather safely and entertain the kids as summer camps and sports leagues were restricted or closed.

Now that more people are getting vaccinated and restrictions on traveling and gathering are loosening, what kind of summer can we expect for 2021?

  • PTO will be used. People are feeling more confident and those who have PTO benefits will enjoy at least some of it this year with extended weekend holidays and longer trips.
  • We won’t fully unplug. Remote work will enable some to relocate for longer periods to combine work and play in a vacation setting.
  • Staycations will stay. Those who couldn’t get a pool or other sought-after summer item in 2020 will likely have better luck finding it this year. Additionally, while most children are still not yet able to be vaccinated, many families remain reluctant to travel or reengage in sports leagues or other camps
  • Gardens are back. Some pandemic habits will remain as spring spending at lawn and garden retailers indicate many are planning to keep their gardens going or start new ones in 2021.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Consumer Goods areas, including Outdoor Furniture & Grills; Freedonia Focus Reports such as Amusement Parks: United States and Travel Services: United States; and Packaged Facts reports such as Home Food Gardening: US Market Trends & Opportunities and Food Carryout & Delivery. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Automotive & Transport      Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Services    

Pandemic Baby Boom…or Baby Bust?

Initially, many thought that stay-at-home orders and boredom would trigger a mini baby boom. For some couples, that has been the case…particularly among those who weren’t overwhelmed by the increased care responsibilities that the pandemic created for many families.

However, overall, there is evidence of a larger-scale baby bust, as

  • couples unable to celebrate how they would like delayed marriages
  • unemployment left families feeling too financially unstable to support a larger family
  • couples were overwhelmed by supervising home school with their kids while they tried to get their own work done
  • feelings of pandemic dread left families feeling less optimistic about the future and less open to expanding their families

This could have lasting effects on the global economy, particularly if it continues. Short term effects obviously include reduced demand for baby products from wipes and diapers to food, clothing, toys, and furniture. Longer term, reduced birth rates – particularly in areas such as the EU and Japan that have struggled to keep their birthrates up enough to sustain population levels – could lead to additional aging of the population, with fewer workers to support those aging out of the workforce.

The Freedonia Group Consensus Economic Indicators show a 0.7% reduction in births in the US between 2019 and 2020, a continuation of the general trend of the past decade. However, the large millennial generation is expected to support a return to growth in the number of births through 2025, even as overall population growth in the US – powered by immigration – continues to outpace gains in the number of births through the same period.  

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research. Freedonia also offers a 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.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Services    

Future of Food Delivery: Costco Finally Dips Into Curbside Click-and-Collect With Tests in New Mexico

With growing concerns about community spread where infection rates are particularly high coupled with the rise of COVID-19 variants that are more easily spread, more people are asking if even weekly grocery shopping trips are too risky. As a result, even holdouts are putting options back on the table to make customers comfortable and limit in-store traffic.

For instance, Costco – which has long resisted curbside pickup services, suggesting they don’t need it and that their stores aren’t set up for it – is dipping their toes in the water. The company has launched a pilot program offering curbside pickup at three stores in New Mexico. Orders can be placed through Instacart and Costco employees will handle fulfillment. At this point, product pricing is the same as in the store, but order must be at least $100 and customers are charged $10 per order for the convenience.

Most stores have had success with curbside delivery or click-and-collect shopping, even if they have struggled at times with logistics and having enough capacity to meet consumer demand. This market of potential customers is substantial. According to The Freedonia Group’s National Online Consumer Survey (conducted November – December 2020), 35% of respondents noted they had used grocery store curbside pickup for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Retail Bags, Protective Packaging, Commercial Refrigeration Equipment, and Global E-Commerce Packaging. Related reports from our sister publisher, Packaged Facts, include US Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking, Grocery Shopping & Food Trends in the Age of Coronavirus, Global Food E-Commerce, and Online Grocery in the US. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Services    

Future of Food Delivery: Foodservice & Grocers Using Smart Refrigerators

The coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way we get our food. More consumers want easy contactless grocery shopping. Many also desire customizable on-demand fresh offerings featuring high-quality ingredients, but with a contactless payment and pickup experience. In The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey (conducted November – December 2020), 54% of respondents indicated that they were more concerned about food safety and germs transmitted during food delivery because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The next generation of food business plans are using smart refrigerated equipment to not only meet consumers where they are but to also fulfill their demands for a seamless, convenient, and contactless transaction:

  • Sally the Salad Robot from Chowbotics has been seeing increasing installations, first designed as a vending machine replacement in healthcare settings, but now replacing salad bars in grocery store chains (e.g., Heinen’s and Piggly Wiggly).
  • Smart, temperature controlled pickup kiosks are rolling out in a few grocery stores for click-and-collect operations, designed to ease collection and staging operations as well as to potentially place pickup locations away from grocery stores themselves.
  • Being able to offer meals off-premises and close to customers is the driving force behind start-up Alvo as it places smart refrigerators stocked with prepared meals in apartment buildings. After initially installing the refrigerators in office buildings, the firm shifted during the pandemic to residential placements to meet customers where they are.
  • In contrast with Alvo, Farmer’s Fridge has concentrated on offering its smart fridges stocked with salads, oat bowls, and other healthier food options in offices, airports, and hospitals. More recently, the company announced it would debut as a pilot project in select Dunkin’ restaurants in Chicago and New Jersey.

Expect to see continued development as grocers and foodservice vendors seek to make click-and-collect more efficient, to reduce worker time and make the experience more frictionless. Commercial refrigeration and vending machine companies will continue to innovate to fit that market need.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Global Foodservice, Foodservice Single-Use Products, Global Foodservice Single-Use Products, Retail Bags, Protective Packaging, Commercial Refrigeration Equipment, and Global E-Commerce Packaging. Related reports from our sister publisher, Packaged Facts, include Food Carryout & Delivery, Food Carryout & Delivery: Special COVID-19 Consumer Insights, Consumer & Corporate Food Gifting in the US, US Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking, Grocery Shopping & Food Trends in the Age of Coronavirus, Global Food E-Commerce, and Online Grocery in the US. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Machinery & Equipment      Services    

Walmart & HomeValet Widen the Possibilities for Grocery Shopping from Home

Grocery pickup and home delivery has been available for years. But 2020 was the year these services went beyond early adopter demographics – such as frazzled parents and aspiring ladder climbers too busy to muck about the supermarket – and reached the mass market, as shoppers sought to minimize potential exposure to COVID-19.

As much as customers appreciate pickup and delivery alternatives, they are a trade-off. It isn’t the same as going to the store, which allows you to see things that should have been on your list or to consider new items you wouldn’t have looked for online. While ordering paper towels and canned pinto beans is pretty simple, it’s less easy to get bananas exactly as ripe as you need or the perfect cut of beef for a recipe you want to try. And even if your order contains nonperishables like canned soup and breakfast cereal, both pickup and delivery tend to be time-specific (well, maybe not exactly specific, but there are windows, and usually you need to be home for grocery deliveries from local stores.)

Walmart and partner HomeValet may be addressing some of those issues with a new service allowing for anytime deliveries to homes outfitted with HomeValet’s smart box and app. With freezer, cooler, and ambient temperature compartments, the box allows for groceries to be delivered at any time while remaining secure and at the proper storage temperature.

The HomeValet box and service allow for more convenient deliveries and could expand the list of items shoppers will purchase without entering the store. And while you may want to make that trip to choose the beef tenderloin worthy of an anniversary celebration, it could be just right for bags of frozen vegetables, packages of bacon, and loaves of the only kind of bread your kids will eat.

This development is also part of companies such as Walmart beginning to map out their way in a post-pandemic world. Someday, most members of a household will be back at school and working away from home, but they will still want to maintain new shopping habits and take advantage of the convenience offered by online grocery shopping and home delivery.

This market of potential customers is substantial too. According to The Freedonia Group’s National Online Consumer Survey (conducted November – December 2020), 29% of respondents noted they had used a grocery store’s own delivery services for the first time because of the coronavirus pandemic and 35% used grocery store curbside pickup for the first time. Additionally, 30% of respondents noted they were using third-party grocery delivery services (e.g., Instacart and Shipt) more because of the coronavirus pandemic.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Protective Packaging, Commercial Refrigeration Equipment, Global E-Commerce Packaging, and Global E-Commerce, as well as titles from our sister publisher Packaged Facts, including U.S. Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking, Grocery Shopping, & Food Trends in the Age of Coronavirus; U.S. Beverage Market Outlook 2020: Grocery Shopping & Personal Consumption in the Coronavirus Era; Global Food E-Commerce; and Online Grocery Shopping. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Packaging      Services