COVID-19 has transformed the consumer landscape

Our Tetra Pak Index 2020 research reveals a strikingly different consumer landscape to our last report, highlighting a dilemma between food safety and the environment.

Twelve months ago, the Tetra Pak Index 2019 found that the number one consumer concern was the environment (by some margin, at 63%), followed by health (at 46%). It also found that these historically separate areas were converging, as interest in the environment shifted from a distant, abstract concern to something more concrete, urgent and personal – an issue that consumers increasingly saw as impacting themselves and their families.

This year, we can clearly see a significant shift in consumers’ attitudes and their view of the biggest challenges facing the world. In our consumer interviews, carried out in mid-2020, an entirely novel worry unsurprisingly emerges as by far the single most pressing issue, cited by 64% of respondents: COVID-19. Other health-related issues have dropped significantly, by comparison, down to a mere 15%.

Global concerns are highly affected by COVID-19

The pandemic has also pushed the environment down the list of global concerns: from 63% in 2019 to 49% today. Meanwhile, worries about economic issues have risen, up from 40% to 47%, reflecting widespread concern about the impact of the pandemic on the economy, particularly employment.

In addition, COVID-19 has sparked a significant rise in global concern about food safety and future food supplies, cited by a combined total of 40% (27% and 13% respectively), compared with 30% when merged as a single topic in 2019.

This uptick comes through even more strongly when we drill down further into attitudes around these topics, with 68% agreeing that food safety is a major concern for society – the same amount as believe that COVID-19 is a “real threat”, suggesting a dilemma between food safety and environment. See the next insight for more on this.

We can see a significant drop-off in consumer interest/concern beyond these key topics of COVID-19, food safety, the environment and economic issues: the bedrock of consumer priorities today

Case study: Packaged UHT milk

Packaged UHT campaign in Greater Middle East & Africa

Consumption of white milk has long been growing in Greater Middle East & Africa, however the majority of this is still loose, rather than packaged. A key issue around the take-up of packaged Ultra High Temperature (UHT) milk in particular has been a lack of education: there is a popular misconception that because of its long shelf life, the product contains additives, which is contrary to growing consumer demand for natural products.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic increasing concern about food safety and hygiene, the opportunity was there to run an information campaign and explain that UHT milk represents a safe, healthy and convenient way to access the nutritional benefits of white milk.

The ongoing Tetra Pak campaign is primarily targeted at female consumers aged 25-45, who are concerned with feeding their children and families with the most safe and nutritious food. Five videos have been developed, each providing answers to consumers’ most-asked questions about UHT, including explaining how the milk gets from the farm to the table and how aseptic packaging can keep the product fresh without the need for preservatives.

Promoted online and via social media, these videos have been viewed more than 15 million times to date.

Read next insight: The changing interplay between food safety and the environment


Tetra Pak Index 2020, summary and conclusions infographic

Top ten takeaways infographic

woman wearing mask in store

Summary video