Based on current trends, it appears that the major effects of the Pandemic should be dramatically reduced by late summer 2021. The current vaccines are highly effective in preventing deaths and serious illness for all known virus variants. Vaccinations for all who want them should be completed by July as supply chains continue to ramp up production. Finally, vaccine producers are already working on booster shots for the current vaccines for the fall to address any new variants that may emerge.
All schools should be able to resume 100% face-to-face learning in the fall along with a full schedule of sports. Movie theatres, restaurants and other activities dramatically curtailed during the pandemic will return with few if any restrictions.
Will everything return to a pre-pandemic normal then? Perhaps, but there is one variable that is hard to predict and that is us. Meaning to what effect has the experience of the Pandemic changed future consumer behavior in the food industry?
Will we be more cautious regarding congregating in large crowds or will the desire to reconnect with each other drive our behavior? How much of our food buying behavior will remain online? Will we ever see a real handheld menu again? These and many other questions will be answered as we emerge from the Pandemic’s grip.
It is possible to get an early glimpse into what these permanent long-term effects may be. The US is a lagging indicator as to how mass vaccination will affect consumer behavior. There are a number of European countries and Israel that had very high infection levels and are now leading the US in the level of vaccination. I would suggest tracking these countries’ food industries as they reach an effective level of mass vaccinations a few months earlier than the US. It may be a good indicator of what our food industry will look like as it emerges from the Pandemic.
2021 should be a year of full recovery from the COVID-19 Pandemic. What the food industry will look like as we emerge from the Pandemic’s effects is not fully known, but we can certainly keep an eye on these early indicators.