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BCC Innovation, presents: “360º Gastronomy: Four possible post-COVID-19 scenarios for the sector"

01 July 2020

The coronavirus crisis has made glaringly evident that we are immersed in a vast ocean of uncertainty. To address this intimidating panorama, BCC Innovation has put together a report: "360º Gastronomy: Four possible post-COVID-19 scenarios for the sector". The objective of this report is not to predict the future, but rather, to stimulate creative thinking and exploration of this complex new reality: analyzing the current socioeconomic landscape and forecasting possible outcomes for the months and years to come, after the COVID-19 crisis. It aims to offer broader perspective and reflection so that companies and actors in the gastronomy value chain can bolster their competitive edge and resilience by promoting innovative actions.

This forward-looking endeavor is founded in how the Basque Culinary Center and its Technological Center for Gastronomy, BCC Innovation, understand gastronomy. Based on our comprehensive vision, possibilities for change are analyzed throughout the value chain, including gastronomy’s interaction with other relevant sectors, such as: health care, tourism, and more.

In order to project possible future scenarios, the BCC Innovation team examined the uncertainties affecting the gastronomy sector at present, both general and specific: What kind of macroeconomic scenario will we encounter after the first wave of COVID-19? What shape will economic recovery take on: L, U, V or W? How will consumer habits change? How will all this impact business models? What new business opportunities may arise?

The authors of this report developed a methodological framework based on five critical factors affecting the socioeconomic and political context that will determine how the gastronomy sector evolves in the post-COVID-19 world. Their systematic forecasting work resulted in four different possible scenarios. Each one explores the macro socioeconomic and political context to situate the reader, and then delves into an in-depth analysis of the impacts, challenges and opportunities for the gastronomy sector in each different scenario.

The report is based on Jim Dator's “Four Futures" model, as this model observes multidimensional changes and analyzes complexity, while also generating differentiated contexts. Each resulting scenario incorporates the relevant available evidence: key factors regarding the macro scenario; the main ideas defining the particular economic, political and social context; and the implications for gastronomy (addressing the various sectors of the value chain: production, industry, distribution, commercialization and consumers – each one is characterized in each scenario).

The four possible post-COVID-19 scenarios predicted are: "Business as usual", "Stay calm and carry on", "Systemic failure", and "Lessons learned for the 21st century”.

1)    Continuity. "Business as usual": means the rapid recovery of the sector and a return to normality. This possible outcome is characterized, in terms of business operations, by major players in the gastronomy sector consolidating, open innovation processes expanding, and digitization of the sector accelerating to promote new sales avenues, personal safety and hygiene. As for the consumer, it foresees a shift in mindset wherein consumers want to “make up for lost time”. Therefore, aggressive marketing is predicted to increase demand and along with it, promote the sector’s recovery.

2)    Order and control. "Stay calm and carry on": Some speculate that there will be a prolonged period of economic and social disruption, involving further measures of control and restricted movement. This possibility is characterized, in terms of business operations, by government protectionism of key players and industries, expanding government aid, and digitization focused on ensuring traceability and promoting new online shopping experiences and at-home consumption, while simultaneously seeking to convey tangible value to consumers. The value of solidarity is also very present.

As for the consumer, there is a strong preference for moderately priced establishments and a marked return to traditional products. In this scenario, the consumer aims to strike a balance among safety, trust and the best price, preferring familiar regional brands.

3)    Collapse. "Systemic failure": This scenario involves exacerbated problems on a feed-back loop, with increasing tensions and paralyzed or overwhelmed systems.

Business operations are impacted by a restructured agricultural sector due to the lack of foreign labor, the widespread disappearance of SMEs and high unemployment, disruption of local markets due to cheaper imported foods and a reduction in the ranges of products available.

Meanwhile, consumers find themselves overcome by a general feeling of distrust. Thus, consumers limit their purchases to the bare essentials where price is the only relevant factor.

4)    Transformation. “Lessons learned for the 21st century”: This represents the most appealing possible outcome as it tackles the structural problems behind our current woes. It entails a significant shift towards sustainability and a change in business model. In this scenario, the crisis triggered by the pandemic catalyzes a complete overhaul of the sector to generate new, more resilient, fairer and sustainable systems that maintain the best practices from our past.

Regarding business operations, there would be incentives to stimulate and reactivate sustainable activities, in accordance with the https://ec.europa.eu/info/strategy/priorities-2019-2024/european-green-deal_en; this translates into new jobs and modes of operation. A business collaboration and cooperation model is established and there is a boom in local production and consumption, with an emphasis on sustainability and biodiversity. Big data and other cutting edge technologies are key to enacting this scenario.

As for the consumer, healthy consumption trends catch on: flexitarianism, alternative proteins, moderation, and DIY.

Although the likelihood of one single scenario coming completely into fruition is low, the ability to identify keys to each possible outcome and explore them in-depth allows us to approach our reality with more information and perspective. Thus, BCC Innovation is making a call for optimism - “The future belongs to daring dreamers” - to remind us all that in times of uncertainty, it is especially important to ask not only “what to do”, but also “how to do it”. Although maintaining a stable business is always the top priority, it is essential to determine which path a company wishes to follow and not miss out on new opportunities that may arise in a reality that is transforming at a dizzying pace. The “360º Gastronomy” report concludes with a series of questions that all companies should ask themselves in order to begin developing their new-world modus operandi.

The full report is available, free of charge, at BCC Innovation Website. The authors would also like to note that the BCC Technology Center has programmed different activities, such as webinars and round-table discussions, throughout the month of July to unpack the content of the report so that it may serve as a guide for all kinds of companies along the gastronomy value chain.   

BCC INNOVATION

BCC Innovation is the Basque Culinary Center's Technological Center for Gastronomy. Its mission is to research and generate knowledge applicable to gastronomy and culinary experiences. This knowledge is then shared with all the actors involved in the gastronomy value chain and with society as a whole.

BCC Innovation boasts a multidisciplinary team: chefs with degrees in Gastronomic Sciences; graduates and PhDs in Nutrition, Biology, Chemistry, Food Technology, Agricultural Engineering and Business Administration, among other fields. Thanks to this multidisciplinary vision and work, BCC Innovation achieves highly innovative and effective results by combining creativity and scientific-technological capabilities.

BCC Innovation's areas of research and innovation are structured as follows:

●      Culinary innovation. Designing and developing new products of high gastronomic value for the food and restaurant industries.

●      Entrepreneurship. Promoting projects that transform the gastronomy value chain and foster the creation of new technology-based companies. To this end, its flagship project, Culinary Action!, is an accelerator for gastronomy startups.

●      Technological innovation with LABe- Digital Gastronomy Lab, a living innovation lab for experimentation, co-creation, testing and increasing visibility of new products, services and experiences in gastronomy and the HORECA sector.

●      Research on gastronomy and health, and gastronomy and circular economy (sustainability). Project Gastronomia initiative stands out, whose objective is to visualize what our food system will be like in the future in order to design strategies that allow us to anticipate.

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