Meet the New American Grocery Shopper

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Meet the New American Grocery Shopper

By Gina Acosta - 04/22/2020
Meet the New American Grocery Shopper
According to Acosta's latest study of shifting consumer shopping habits, shopper concern over the pandemic is escalating, especially among older households and those in hardest-hit areas. 

Food retailers wondering when the pre-pandemic consumer will return to stores may be in for a longer wait than they anticipated.

According to Acosta's latest study of shifting consumer shopping habits, shopper concern over the pandemic is escalating, especially among older households and those in hardest-hit areas. 

“While we’re still seeing new trends form week-to-week, like the prioritization of comfort foods over pantry and paper products, we’re also seeing trends solidify with e-commerce continuing to surge and in-store trips continuing to decline due to growing concern,” said Darian Pickett, CEO of Acosta. “Our research shows that shopper concern continues to increase as weeks go by. In our first shopper survey from March 6 to March 12, concern levels averaged 6.9, and now it’s risen to 8.2 out of 10. That said, we’re optimistic these concerns will reverse with more than half of shoppers surveyed noting they expect their shopping habits to return to ‘normal’ once the pandemic is over.”

But that is the $64,000 question: When will the pandemic be over? Nobody knows, and food retailers shouldn't expect to see the pre-pandemic consumer with his pre-pandemic shopping habits back in the store any time soon.

For now, Acosta’s third COVID-19 research report shows that shoppers are making 52% fewer trips to physical stores. Around 51% of shoppers are placing more grocery delivery orders. And many of these shoppers are looking to buy comfort foods.

Additional insights include:

  • Shopper priorities are beginning to shift with comfort foods edging out pantry and paper products for the first time. Shoppers reported sweets, frozen pizza and salty snacks topped their shopping list for the upcoming week.
  • To support local economies, shoppers also planned to buy meals from area restaurants in the upcoming week via drive-thru (38%), carry-out (36%) and delivery (24%).
  • Sixty-eight percent of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely that their grocery habits will return to normal once the pandemic is over.
  • Fifty-eight percent of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely they will return to the same eating out routines they had before.
  • Fifty-six percent of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely that they will eat at home more than they used to for a while.
  • Thirty-one percent of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely they will do more online grocery pick-up or delivery than they did before.

Food retailers looking to leverage elevated consumer demand for groceries should follow the following five rules of engagement, according to Acosta:

  • Focus on people first, namely shoppers and staff, and ensure enhanced safety by enabling no-touch transactions, like self-checkout and Apple Pay.
  • Recognize changing shopper attitudes and behaviors and adapt quickly by offering assorted comfort foods and snacks in addition to essentials.
  • Ensure the retail digital shelf and e-commerce strategies are prepared for the accelerated shift to online grocery demand.
  • With staying at home likely remaining strong in the months post-COVID, provide convenient shopper "solutions" centered on meals and self-care.
  • Accommodate lower-income shoppers who are getting relief to buy food via stimulus checks; they may be looking to trade down and leverage promotions.

Acosta’s research was gathered via online surveys using the company’s proprietary shopper community between April 3 and 7, 2020. The report also includes comparison data from online surveys conducted between March 6 and 12 and March 20 and 29, 2020.

To access the full report, click here.