Keogh’s: Covid-19 ‘a catalyst’ for online food purchasing

The impact of Covid-19 and the measures being taken to prevent and limit the spread of the coronavirus could well prove to be a catalyst in shifting consumer behaviour towards online sales, according to Tom Keogh, managing director of well-known potato and crisp company Keogh’s.

Speaking to AgriLand, Keogh outlined the impact that Covid-19 is having on business around the country – particularly the agri-food business.

‘Complete redistribution’

“The demand is still there; there just needs to be a complete redistribution.

We’re seeing it in our business – there’s a complete redistribution of where people buy their food.

“The lunchtime trade is gone – now everything is at home so everything is coming through the multiple retailers.”

The founder of Keogh’s Crisps explained that this means a lot of employment needs to be redistributed to move with this change.

“We’re hiring at the minute for extra people; you can see all the retailers are hiring for extra people. All the people involved in online sales are hiring for extra people. There is a big redistribution of services.”

Online purchasing

Asked whether this impact will see a permanent change in behaviour, or whether things will return as previously when normality resumes, Keogh is certain there will be a change.

This is definitely going to change consumers’ buying habits. It drove a lot more people into online purchasing. Once people start to do this and actually realise how handy it is, how efficient it is, I think this will be a catalyst to drive a lot of people into permanent online purchasing.

“Obviously a lot of people will return back to standard trade; but I think this will give a big kick to the growth of online grocery in Ireland,” he added.

Underlining the sheer scale of change to daily life and business in recent days and weeks, Keogh said it is “probably the biggest change” either he or his father have ever seen.

He pointed to following how things are faring in China to determine the timescale for how long it will take to control the virus.

We just have to roll with it and adapt; and thankfully we’re in food. People always have to eat.

The managing director also pointed to the more healthy consumer trend of late and the surge in potato sales prompted by the outbreak:

“People are definitely looking after themselves a lot more and watching what they eat and they’re moving into a healthier diet – and potatoes are obviously part of that.”

Supporting local

Keogh highlighted the importance, now more than ever, of supporting and buying local food and produce:

“People need to be really aware at these times that they need to be supporting local; it’s really important.

We set up a snack-food business in 2011, in the depths of a recession. That snack-food business is where it is today because people supported start-up Irish food businesses back then.

“I think in these times, and moving forward, in the next six months and more, people really need to look at the labelling of their food products; look at really where they’re coming from, and try to buy local where at all possible they can.

“Support Irish farmers and support Irish manufacturing. This is going to be really important,” Keogh concluded.