A job search in Consumer Products requires thorough research to understand how Covid has affected a company’s business. Most consumer products companies had very uneven business results—some brands saw enormous growth and others saw significant declines as consumers lived under the lockdown.

To show the range of consumer product companies’ experience, I interviewed alumni from three companies to share their stories from the last year of Covid. Their experiences underscore the importance of being an agile marketer and staying very close to the consumer. They tell how consumer behavior is simple and often logical but difficult to predict.

Jake Kirsch ‘11, VP Innovation, ABinBev
Covid had a massive effect on our business. Fifteen percent of our business is in bars and restaurants and they were effectively closed. Some new products scheduled for launch last March were slowed as retailers needed to simplify their workload. When the lockdown first hit, we saw consumers turn to “old trusted brands” like Busch and Bud Light. When people began to gather with family or small groups again, consumers had an appetite to bring “something new” and that was often newer products like Stella Solstice and Social Club Seltzer.

As we head out of Covid, we see long-term trends accelerating. Consumers are now even more interested in health and wellness. Value is even more important due to the economic fallout of Covid. We at ABinBev have kept up with and stayed close to consumers as we head out of Covid. We speak to thousands of consumers each week to understand and anticipate consumer trends.

Gina Pak, ’15, CMO Blueland (sustainable cleaning products)
Despite the circumstances, we have been fortunate enough to offer in-demand products and were introduced to so many new potential customers who would otherwise not have considered a refillable, planet-friendly option. We've also been able to launch new, innovative products such as dish and laundry, which allowed people to get more of their cleaning products delivered to their home at a time when they may be hesitant to go to a store. With that immense growth, we've been able to share our mission with more people and help consumers evaluate how to best minimize waste in their everyday products.

Amanda Burlison ’14, Sr. Brand Manager, Gold Medal Flour & Betty Crocker Baked Goods, General Mills
The last year was completely crazy for my businesses! At first, we saw panicked buying and consumers scrambling to buy flour and baked goods. Store shelves were emptied of flour as consumers were home and baking provided a comforting activity for their families. One day last summer, Gold Medal Flour orders from retailers were 1,000% ahead of the previous year! During the pandemic, 5.7 million new homes bought the Betty Crocker brand, which was the highest penetration growth across all General Mills brands.

That kind of consumer demand required radical action. We quickly engaged with several new contract manufacturers to produce Gold Medal Flour and Betty Crocker desserts, working with facilities as far away as Dubai. Those external supply chain decisions were sometimes very costly, so we had to carefully manage our profit impacts while trying to get as much product on shelf to meet unimaginable consumer demand.

Not all General Mills products saw significant increases. In fact, Nature Valley Granola Bars sales declined as children stayed home for virtual school. With parents not packing lunches and children eating at home, the portable snack bar business was hit hard. General Mills also serves school cafeterias and other businesses like hotels, which were clearly severely impacted. Overall, General Mills saw simultaneous highs and lows during the pandemic.

For the job seeker, it is important to research how companies were affected by the Covid pandemic and what the forecast is for opportunities going forward. Assess each company for how agile they’ve been, and their strategy to deal with the changes ahead, as well as where consumer need indicates new opportunities. That is the work of keen marketers and makes the industry dynamic and ever-changing.