The current COVID times proved it to be a challenge for all business sectors but considering the meat and seafood sector this phase turned out to be a game-changer and an opportunity to elevate the services offered to the customers.
Opportunity for meat and seafood sector
Firstly, when it comes to customer relations after the COVID-19 pandemic it has created a positive movement, where many customers who would have taken several years to switch to hygiene meat/seafood brand is happening at a much faster rate. The industry has seen an increase in demand since people are confined to their homes. This is an opportunity at a time of crisis for the entire meat and seafood sector. Companies had witnessed an uptick in customer awareness as they need to be sure of where the meat and seafood are coming from and the hygiene practices followed by the seller. Hence, all the FSSAI/WHO guidelines were deeply looked at not only by the authorities to provide safe seafood or meat, but even by the customers in a big way and this will be the new normal for the meat and seafood retail industry.
Retailers have been forced to question the sense of having physical as well as an online presence in the last few months but they do realize that physical format will be the key to cracking the industry code which has long seen an image that has led to a different set of challenges for the companies that operate in the sector. New initiatives like Contactless retail, contactless payment, online ordering is among the first few initiatives that have been implemented but also have given customers the liberty to click, choose, order, and collect from the stores. The experience of buying meat and seafood from the store still holds a lot of mettle and consumers have become increasingly wary during COVID-19 times.
Supply chain bouncing back to normal
Speaking about the backend operations, as soon as the lockdown was imposed, the supply chain was majorly hit because the transport services of goods was restricted, and the situation of transport of essential services was also no different. But few days down the line, the vehicles carrying essential goods and perishable items were labeled, and with the help of local authorities, the movement of perishable items was facilitated. Within a few weeks, the supply chain bounced back to normal.
Challenges faced by meat and seafood retailers
In India, animal breeding, slaughtering, and processing segments highly rely on manual labor, but the worker shortage was one major challenge the industry faced. The meat and seafood industry has witnessed some of its worst challenges during this COVID period. Meat and seafood retailers have started looking at reinventing their approach and develop a true omnichannel model and bolster both their physical as well as an online presence. These terms don’t play a big role in the life of a customer, when it comes to meat and seafood it boils down to the in-store experience and can play a pivotal part in securing the loyalty of the customers. The better the experience, the higher the chances of customers coming back to the store to buy meat and seafood.
Retailers need to mold businesses in accordance with the changing customer needs. COVID-19 has heightened the focus on how people buy and consume meat in India by providing them with a convenient and hygienic experience. Companies have been quick to understand that traceability (farm to the customer) of the meat for the best quality and shelf-life and the inventory management for reducing wastage based on auto forecasting, is the key to run the business and have disruptive margins (>33%), hence technology is the most important factor to manage and automate large parts from procurement to last-mile delivery which will play an important role to change the existing image of the industry and address the prevailing issues ailing the industry for long. Given the current situation, it is the right moment to look at new opportunities for development starting from farming, processing, storage, and distribution, the whole scope of the supply chain.
The key for omnichannel retailers especially in the meat and seafood sector in the long-term is to understand what do consumers want, where do they find comfort in, hassle-free buying process, and how innovative the look and feel can be for a customer when they step-in to a store. Meat and seafood will find takers who want to go a store and get it customized according to their needs and this factor will remain dominant in the future too.