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The New Normal Is Here, Recent Shopping Data Shows

Newly released intelligence from Catalina reveals lingering pandemic behaviors balanced by a return to in-person activities
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
The New Normal is Here, Recent Shopping Data Shows
Consumers are headed out more to shop for groceries and eat in restaurants but are still seeking products for eating and entertaining at home.

There has been a lot of speculation about how shoppers will change their behaviors in the wake of the pandemic. Research conducted as vaccinations accelerated and states began to roll back restrictions shows that consumers are indeed venturing out more and shifting some of their grocery-buying habits.

As one might expect, it’s not quite a full return to pre-pandemic lifestyles, nor is it in line with 2020 habits, according to grocery/CPG shopping data from St. Petersburg, Fla.-based shopper intelligence and digital media firm Catalina. The midpoint of the 2021 calendar can be seen as a midpoint in the return to normalcy.

For example, Catalina’s research shows that for the last four weeks ending on May 22, in-person shopping trips are up 9% compared to the same period last year but down 9% from the same period in 2019. When it comes to grocery stock-ups, basket sizes are down 12% from this time last year but still up 18 percentage points over 2019.

What consumers are putting in their baskets reflects the arc of the pendulum swing. Catalina’s market intelligence shows that consumers are buying more products that reflect the return to personal interactions, such as Maybelline lipstick (up 66%), Native deodorant (up 88%) and Downy clothing wrinkle reducer (up by 48%), among others.

In food, there is a wobbly balance between away-from-home and at-home dining. The new data reveals that sales of convenience-oriented refrigerated meal starters are increasing while some categories that require more meal prep are diminishing, like fresh meat, fresh poultry, dried pasta, dried bulk rice and cooking oil. At the same time, restaurant sales rose for eight straight weeks through the week ending May 9, according to related data from Black Box Intelligence.

As the weather warms up and social distancing gives way to social occasions, items for home entertaining are in demand. According to Catalina’s findings, sales of refrigerated appetizers climbed 46% and sales of the Chinet brand of plastic cutlery are up 11%. There was also an 8% rise in sales of Chinet disposable cups.

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