In contemporary times, there have been phenomenal developments in food production, and general changes in lifestyle which have in part been accelerated and necessitated by the Covid-19 outbreak. It is argued here that the wake of Covid-19 will see a world so different from whatever we have known, and this could be the vice that easily cracks the macadamia nut as it has never been done before.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak, the world has been talking of the new normal which we have to adapt to. One reason is that it is going to take a bit of time to finally get out of the grip of this pandemic, even if a cure or vaccine is found. This means that even when the storm is finally over, just as it has been difficult to adapt to the new Covid-19 protocols, it is going to take a bit of time for the world to re-adjust to the old normal.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not just brought about suffering alone but has also led to innovation and a readjustment of the way we do things. Companies and businesses have come up with systems and practices that aim at mitigating the effects of the pandemic.
Early September, Julie Creswell and Peter Eavis of the New York Times reported the grim reality obtaining in the New York real estate market. Their report indicates that only just about a quarter of employers plan to have their workers back to the office by December 2020. More than half of the companies plan to have their workforce back in the office just after mid-2021. This has dipped the demand for office space to a 20-year low for an entire year.
Even more pertinent is the emerging trend of the re-imagination and re-design of the concept of office space, which could see the current Covid-19 pandemic era trends endure into the post-pandemic era, thus eclipsing the old normal.
Closer home, I have been in conversation with some of our partners, and there has been an indication from some quarters that working from home is proving to be a better alternative. For global corporations that have offices in other countries in different time zones, it has been very convenient working with their colleagues here in East Africa, because they can still catch up with stuff in real-time, given that they are at home and can be called upon to immediately respond to issues even at odd hours, and the instruments of trade are always within reach. If efficiency and increased productivity is anything to aspire for, then there could be an increased movement toward this working arrangement.
What the latter report and projection do not put into consideration is the fact that this is a time when movement and socialization are restricted. Clubs are closed; sporting venues are also on lockdown. What expectation do we have that the same worker who is on call at odd hours during the pandemic will not be unwinding after working hours in a social venue when the pandemic is over?
A source of concern is the emerging consumption patterns, which might develop a life of their own into the future, especially in regard to macadamia nuts, which are considered to be the prime nuts.
A study conducted by the Future Market Insights registered a 78% increase in the consumption of macadamia nuts in the decade ending in 2017. Prospects in the current decade (2018-2028) are projected to be favorable. This did not factor in the Covid-19 situation that turned everything upside-down.
Another study by Australian-macadamia.org posted in June 2020 predicts a 3% growth, compared to the 2019 crop. However, as we say in Kenya, things on the ground are different. The macadamia processor fraternity is small and the grapevine has it that very little is moving on the market. Processors are stuck with nuts courtesy to the slow global market. There is also talk of a consumption shift from the comparatively expensive macadamia nuts to other nuts that are not as dear. If this trend becomes the new post-COVID-19 normal then we can look forward to a very interesting and scary future for those in the macadamia business.
A Kiswahili old adage goes ‘whenever you see your colleague being razor-shaved, wet your head (for you could be the next in line).’ Reports attributed to Carlos Abrams-Rivera of Kraft Heinz show that they would ax 1,000 off their product list; amounting to a 20% reduction in their business. Their projection is that 60% of their growth would be spurred by innovation and the rest would rest on renovations. This, juxtaposed with other developments in food processing, should worry the players in the nut industry.
In the United States, Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief, Food Processing E-News reports that the long-established tradition by Just Born Quality Confections to produce the Mike and Ike Hot Tamales for Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine’s has been suspended this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. If this is something that will molt into another form can only be left to speculation.
Looking beyond the pandemic-inspired changes in the food industry, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been promoting their plant-based meats, with a steady rise in both their product range and their market penetration. Some of the reasons for their continued success are markets of scale, ingredient breakthrough, and world hunger.
If the producers of plant-based meats are able to come up with products that are very close to meat in texture, taste, and even the ability to bleed just like animal-derived meats, it is not a far-fetched idea to contemplate alternatives to nuts such as macadamia. Having observed the submission that macadamia nuts are considered dear, what if cheaper and perhaps faster and easier to produce alternatives were to be arrived at through processes of food engineering?
Written by Amadi Kwaa Atsiaya