From being invisible, from being a sector that was not talked about in general or only to project negative images (subsidized), society has realized that the food sector is strategic and covers a basic need.

With the onset of the health crisis and the closure of all non-essential activities (at least in Spain), the fear of shortages took hold in society and there was a 30% increase in the stockpiling of foodstuffs in excess of baseline demand. The sector responded by meeting this need, there were no stock-outs and the supply chain generally worked very well. The year of the pandemic, despite initial fears, was the year in which we did not go hungry and in which the food supply was guaranteed.

In general terms, it has not been affected by the crisis, it has come out stronger, it has increased exports, it is a demander of capital goods, a tractor of many other industrial sectors and the first industrial sector in Spain. The sector has been one of the least affected by the crisis and, moreover, its weight in the total economy has increased as its production has decreased less than the average of the manufacturing industry.

Winners and losers

  • Innovative companies, with a good regional or global brand, well managed, with quality (premium) products, diversified in channels and markets.
  • Horeca in general and food SMEs will suffer the most, especially those highly dependent on Horeca and unable to stop the supply chain.
  • Volume companies (with tight margins) and focused on Retail.


  • Acquisition of emblematic companies and delocalization of decision-making power.
  • Reconfiguration of the value chain map, disappearance of players and simplification of the sector.


  • Reinventing oneself for the day after. Adapting business models.
  • A sector in which to invest.
  • Gaining size.
  • Key differential innovation to position the company with the day after in mind, create more brands, diversify channels and face the challenges of transformation with a focus on health and sustainability, using digitalization as a basic tool to achieve these objectives.


  • Focus on the priority of addressing the cyclical changes, but do not forget the structural ones, the underlying movements, which will be in the day after COVID and that the pandemic has accelerated them in many cases (sustainability, digitization, healthy eating, new sources of protein…).

Excerpt from the report “Diagnosis and Conclusions of the Health and Economic Crisis in the Food Sector” by AZTI. Read the full report here:


Author: Rogelio Pozo, CEO of AZTI