The current pandemic seems to be eliciting similar responses from people belonging to very different cultures: toilet paper hoarders are everywhere, from New Zealand to Hungary. Profiteers looking to exploit the increasing demand for disinfectants and masks are just as likely to pop up in the United States as in the Netherlands. Amid all this, a more innocuous shortage seems to also be trending — that of yeast packets.

Many people either cannot or will not buy fresh bread for fear of contamination; so they have turned to baking their own, driving retailers’ stocks of flour down and yeast consumption up. This is certainly the case in Romania... and it seems to be a global phenomenon. However, humans have been baking bread long before the invention of active dry yeast. The oldest known record for bread making dates back 14,000 years ago, and yeasted breads have been around for at least 4,000 years. It turns out that many cultures captured yeast from their environment, probably to make some form of sourdough bread with fermented flour. No dry yeast required, it would seem.

History is biased against the losing side

The point of the rambling above is that just because a convenient solution has gone missing, that does not mean that it cannot be substituted with another. The report we put together is by no means an exhaustive exploration of the way companies made it out of the Great Depression. Nor is it a plug and play set of instructions that can solve a business’ problems. Quite the opposite — a good portion of the companies you will read about are probably not faring as well now or have not flourished in the past decades. There’s also the matter of survivorship bias — we do not know whether there were other companies that took the same measures and failed. Why bother with this, then? Because the pattern that emerges from all of these companies’ stories is far more valuable than their results. And at the same time far more banal. What all these companies did, as you shall see, is not mindblowing. It’s common sense. But then again, many things seem obvious in hindsight. What these companies did was to adapt. To their consumers’ needs, to the market, to their competitors’ actions. Going back to the yeast story — their clients needed bread and they found a way to bake it for them. By capturing microscopic fungi floating in the air.

The sample case study below is one of the many included in the whitepaper.

Supermarkets/ Retailers - IGA

Actions

  • Creatively interpret new legislation
  • Break into a new market at little cost

Outcome

  • Drive foot traffic away from a competing category

Supermarkets do not run on high margins. And during an economic downturn, those became razor-thin. However, come 1933, something was about to change. That was the year when Vitamins were officially classified as drugs, available without a prescription. At that time, vitamins were the 2nd most popular purchase in drugstores.

When IGA got a hold of the official legislation, it found that the wording did not explicitly prohibit supermarkets from selling vitamins. So they stocked up, sold them as they would any other grocery item and openly challenged drugstores in the supplement market. Not only would they win the battle, but draw in more supermarkets to do the same.


Send us an email and we will gladly share the full report with you.