Some say that the pandemic is one great equalizer because it affects everyone and does not choose its victim, but a survey showed that inequality was highlighted even more glaringly during the hard long and tough lockdowns in the Philippines where the rich are found indulging in their premium brands while the poor subsisting on food basics.

John Patrick Cua, managing director of Nielsen’s Retail Intelligence business for Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar, said during a webinar on Filipino Consumer Behaviors & Retail Updates to COVID  Impact organized by the German Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines presented a survey that revealed the birth of two tales of shoppers during this period: Insulated and Constrained.

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The Insulated are those that enjoy job retention, sustained stable income, @home work relocation and enjoys family fiscal support while the Constrained shoppers are those who lost jobs, with compressed income, labor relation, poverty plunge and flux, debt default, no savings, subsist on basics, reactive health response and limited luxuries.

According to the Nielsen study, the Insulated do not only maintain but increase certain spend. This kind of shopper scale on discretionary snacks, treats and beverages. They also opt for self-care grooming and personal regimes.

Notably, Cua said the Insulated are indulging in premiumization as they scrutinize products for health, hygiene, and safety benefits. They also seek bulk packs as they shop for the family.

As people are forced to stay home or work from home, the ABC segment opt for more premium brands for better experience. They pamper self as reward for hard work and to relieve themselves from boredom.

As the wealthy “premiumize for quality,” the Constrained reduced their spending and fast moving consumer goods consumption. They prioritize meals over snacks, treats, beverages as they substitute for value-based adjacent categories.

The Constrained also subsist on food basics swayed by affordability and availability problems. Household and personal care regimes have to be rationalized and they eliminate discretionary products. They also seek out for small packs known in the Philippines as sachets, prefer flexible quantities due to fluctuating income.

“These could be your daily wage earners who lost their jobs because of closure so some of these small businesses … their income is compressed They have to subsist on the basics. So, it’s relatively day to day for them they rely on government support,” said Cua.

The D and E segments have to buy food items/treats as small indulgences to relieve boredom, especially for kids.

“As we talk in the framework of spenders, they have to do more with less. They’re going to be spending more time at home. And, impact will not be equal but there are some opportunities for who still have the money to spend,” said Cua.

As the wealthy have more room for premiumization, Cua showed some premium brands enjoy strong growth during the pandemic.

“Maybe eight years ago, Nielsen says the growing middle class premiumization is the next big trend. In this time where people are mostly at home they want to distress, a lot of these brands and categories are enjoying phenomenal growth,” he added.

Growth in some premium priced brands show the opportunity for treats and indulgences especially among the Insulated spenders, the Nielsen survey showed.

For instance, the Nielsen Retail Index showed substantial growth for Lays, a potato chip brand, grew 48 percent in Q2, Ruffles up 35 percent, Oreo increased 28 percent, Beef Bulgogi Flavor noodles up 43 percent, Kisses (chocolate) rose 12 percent, and Nescafe Gold up 17 percent. Notably, the fresh milk segment also grew 47 percent.

Cua further said that in April, the second month of the lockdown, ecommerce shopping for FMCG was less than one percent.

But during COVID more senior people have started using online, not just the millennials.

The Nielsen survey showed that shoppers buy from aggregators like Shopee (86%), Lazada (69%) and FaceBook (41%).

Cua explained that even if Facebook is not a selling platform, shoppers patronize startup individual sellers and business owners in Facebook and Instagram as a way of helping out during the pandemic.  

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