The pandemic has surely driven home the need and the newfound pleasure in all things simple, natural and organic (no, not the corporate jargon organic!)
As the world changed and put everything on hold, humans went scampering to find their own slices of ‘sanity’. This of course led to a lot of introspection of lives, lifestyles, priorities in life and reasons why we were going about seeking and chasing what we were. Some of it was indeed forced upon us given some scarcity – real and imagined, with no slots on grocery apps – of things we had gotten used to but most of it came from all the time that the pandemic bestowed as we were caught indoors with just the gadgets and a clutch of humans.
Good or bad, maybe 2022 will help tell!
But as much of the white-collar workforce moved/ relocated and worked from their home-towns - more often than not, a smaller town compared to their mega -metro workplaces – they realised how easy it was to go back and embrace the roots.
This ‘back to the roots’ manifest itself in myriad ways and we will try and touch upon a few in this piece.
Food – the raison d’etre of life
While the gurus have carried on about the powers that be of all things Ayurveda and rooted in our Vedas, the utility of some of these basic everyday elixirs like cow’s ghee, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, and pepper, made their presence count in all our kitchens, in the post- Covid world.
Folks flocked to get their fix of the ubiquitous kaadha to guard against the virus. One and all extolled the virtues of eating fresh and getting our nutrients the natural way – so followed the cups of nimbu pani and basil infused tea.
While our Indian society, still primarily cooks at least two fresh meals a day, the onus has now shifted more towards buying and using fresh, local seasonal produce. Notice the sudden surge in the number of people in your society selling their garden/ farm produce?
What is also interesting to note is the way slow cooking is being discussed and celebrated anew. The time the pandemic allowed with the work from home scenarios, sure provided a leg up.
New trends also point towards ‘whole foods and grains’ becoming the thing – barley, millet, buckwheat. While some of these had caught the fancy of the urbane millennials a while back, companies are now taking notice of these trends and have a huge potential to make them more mainstream - look at the new launches from Kellogg's – all whole grain-centric cereals.
Even our utensils are undergoing a ‘back to roots’ shift – from earthenware, cool water in earthen pots fitted with a tap instead of ‘fridge ka pani’ to cooking in iron and brass skillets. And to make our kitchens plastic-free – enter mason jars, milk in glass bottles that shout ‘high-end’, A2, more nutritious.
Some of these are not a fallout of the pandemic as such but have surely strengthened now. Some of the key reasons that come to mind are that consumers are more inward driven now, more willing to spend on quality, especially when it comes to consumables that have anything to do with immunity.
The virus has left not only physiological impact on the direct sufferers but also scarred their near ones psychologically. So those who can afford, are ready to embrace whatever small change they can make in their daily habits to get to a healthier version of themselves.
And even if not in active pursuit, most of us have as a conscious consumer woken up to the need to be in our prime health to beat the virus.
Family time and entertainment
No doubt Netflix and other OTT have spiralled, but in so many homes, it has also meant dusting off the books, old board games, card games, tic-tac-toe and inventing new/silly ones – pencil sharpener game, anyone?
And it is most interesting to see content on our OTT platforms for once not singularly focussing on the young adults but also accounting for the choices of the more mass consumers paving way for more focussed, localised content creation ecosystem.
Streaming giant Hotstar recently stated that the regional-language content contributed to > 40% video consumption, with Tamil, Telugu and Bengali topping the charts.
Family time has also meant cooking together and sharing of responsibilities – household chores like doing the dishes and cleaning the house became shared work leading to some bonding and catfights.
Health and wellness
Yoga emerging as the new family time pursuit – no more restricted to the older adults in the household waking up with their mats in hand, the young and children in the house are enthusiastically taking it up too with the gyms and even parks out of bounds for the greater part of this past year. Meditation and the currency it has gained across the board – from corporate organised online sessions to personal trainers and gurus.
Of course, it will be interesting to see how many of these trends stick as we come out of this pandemic, but the hunch is, given the length of its(virus’) life already, some of these behaviour shifts may become the new ‘consumer - not forced into consuming our everyday essentials in this manner, rather choosing to do it in this fashion and becoming a more present and conscientious inhabitant of this planet.
The author is executive director, Ipsos India