According to FMI — The Food Industry Association’s annual “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” report, which extensively tracks consumer grocery shopping habits, the COVID-19 crisis has brought about significant changes in shopper habits, including online purchasing, items consumed, and the frequency of in-home meal preparation and dining.
For instance, before the pandemic, shoppers logged a fairly steady 2.7 weekly household trips to the grocery store, and shoppers continued to employ various channels (4.1) and banners (five) to meet their monthly grocery needs. In the early weeks of COVID-19, however, FMI saw households’ weekly trips to the grocery store rise to 3.6, while 40% of consumers said that they were shopping at fewer stores for their household grocery needs.
In early 2020, 14.5% of grocery spending was online, a considerable increase from previous year, but COVID-19 greatly accelerated this shift, with online spending doubling to 27.9% of all grocery spending during March and April. Many consumers are new to this type of shopping and have been willing to break previous barriers, such as the the 12% who said that they’ve bought fresh produce online for the first time.
Almost all families (87%) said that that eating together is important, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made this practice more important. Some younger consumers – 48% of Gen Z and Millennials – said that they’re eating more healthfully during the pandemic. Forty-one percent of shoppers surveyed said that they’re cooking more, and 42% are limiting trips to the store or making use of perishable items before they spoil. Before COVID-19, almost all (90%) grocery shoppers said that they ate out on occasion, but during March and April, just 45% of shoppers said that they employed restaurant delivery, while 35% said that they were cooking at home six to seven days a week.
“In looking toward the future, most consumers expect to return to their pre-pandemic levels of in-store grocery shopping, and more than a fourth of consumers expect to be ordering more groceries online in the future,” noted Leslie Sarasin, president and CEO of Arlington, Va.-based FMI. “The food industry will continue to listen to consumers and let them guide us on how to best meet their changing household needs. Whatever comes next, we know the supply chain is tremendously resilient and that we can flex, pivot and accommodate the demands of the nation’s grocery shoppers.”
Prepared by The Hartman Group, the 2020 report provides a clear picture of grocery shopping habits before the pandemic, discusses attitude shifts that occurred during COVID-19 and offers a glimpse of what might come next for the food industry. FMI will continue to publish trackers relating to COVID-19 shopper behavior through June.