Corporate Profiles - 2020 - 57

for presenting new products and new ideas. It's all via conference call or
web call. And the presentation of new products is no longer in front of
somebody. You send it and hope it doesn't get messed up."
Many food entrepreneurs who began the year with big plans for new
product launches shifted into survival mode.
"Coronavirus has created a lot of uncertainty," said Allison Ellsworth,
co-founder of Poppi, a Dallas-based beverage startup, in March. "Given
the circumstances, all innovation and new product development will temporarily be put on hold as we work to address the issues at hand. Our
efforts will be focused on our SKUs in distribution and adapting to the
current climate to make our launch as successful as possible."
While the pandemic upended numerous business plans and led to the
closing of companies, hundreds of thousands of startups have launched
across the country. The number of business applications filed in the United States in the week ended Aug. 29 exceeded 101,600, up 62% over
the prior-year period, according to US Census Bureau data.
Drexel Food Lab, a product development and culinary innovation center at Philadelphia-based Drexel University, has received "more inquiries
than ever" since the pandemic began in early spring, said its director,
Jonathan Deutsch, PhD. He attributed the number of displaced restaurant
and hospitality professionals seeking to pivot to the more stable packaged foods industry as a reason, as well as extra time aspiring entrepreneurs have had to build businesses as commutes and social outings were
largely canceled by the pandemic.

LESSONS FROM THE GREAT RECESSION
Despite a challenging economic environment, many new food startups
may emerge during the crisis and fulfill consumer needs for convenience
and health, as well as premium products developed to replace the missed
opportunities to travel and dine out during the pandemic. Successful food
brands that emerged a decade ago from the Great Recession include
Chobani, Purely Elizabeth, Beyond Meat and Zevia.
"A lot of the small companies and brands that we saw in 2010 are here
and powerful today," said Larry Levin, executive vice president, market
and shopper intelligence at Information Resources, Inc., Chicago, in May.
"They positioned themselves well for continued survival or acquisition,
and I think that is a light at the end of the tunnel for some of these small
manufacturers who might be worried right now. They can look back and
see what others did during the last recession. They were able to survive
and come through relatively well."
Key themes that emerged during the Great Recession include premiumization, larger pack sizes and brand expandability, according to data
from IRI's 2008-2010 New Product Pacesetter reports.
Higher quality entrees from Conagra Brands, including Marie Callender's Home-Style Creations and Healthy Choice All Natural, found
success by offering an elevated in-home experience. K-Cups, which began their explosion just as the recession hit, similarly offered an opportunity to create a cafe experience in the kitchen.

More than 3,600 exhibitors planned to showcase the latest concepts and
trends at Natural Products Expo West, which was canceled.

Multi-serving products, including Bertolli oven bake meals, Stouffer's Easy
Express and P.F. Chang's family size frozen meals, also saw growth during the
recession.
"They allowed people to serve a bigger family or serve on a couple of
occasions," Mr. Levin said. "Being able to create that extended use was
really critical for a lot of consumers."
Large consumer packaged goods firms struggled with new products
in popular, high-penetration categories during the Great Recession but
found success by pushing brands into adjacent categories or increasing
offerings. Examples include Kellogg Co.'s Special K snack bars, new Gatorade and Powerade offerings from PepsiCo, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co.,
respectively, and Starbuck Corp.'s instant coffee brand.
Larger pack sizes and restaurant-quality experiences already have
emerged as major themes in 2020, and lingering concerns about the
pandemic will likely sustain the underlying shift toward at-home eating.
Focusing on attributes that matter most to consumers, such as selfcare, will be critical going forward, Mr. Levin said. Opportunities also
exist for products that cater to mental and emotional well-being.
"This is an environment that's got a two-pronged devil," Mr. Levin
said. "We've got coronavirus on one end, and we've got financial collapse on the other end. Manufacturers have an opportunity to create
better-for-you products that serve the same need you might get from a
supplement."

IMMUNITY IN FOCUS

Products carrying an immunity claim, already on the rise before



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