The Next Big Shopper Behavior Shift Is Here

Sales of face masks surging once again
Gina Acosta
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The Next Big Shopper Behavior Shift Is Here
Catalina research shows as some companies began opening their doors to workers, sales of low-calorie, “diet” and convenience foods started to increase.

The pandemic rollercoaster of shopper behavior is rolling on even as vaccination rates inch up, more restaurants and bars operate at greater capacity, and workers return to the office.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changing its previous recommendation and now encouraging both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to wear face masks in public settings, sales in the previously declining category have seen a sharp uptick for the week ending Aug. 7, returning to levels last seen in January, according to fresh data from Catalina’s Buyer Intelligence Database.  

Face mask sales dropped fairly steeply in February as the numbers of vaccinated people started to rise, and more people began getting out and traveling again. While sales were basically flat in March and April, they began to decline again in mid-May, reaching their lowest point the week ending June 26. Over the past four weeks, sales have really taken off again, and are up 232% over the low experienced during the week ending June 26.

“The ongoing pandemic continues to dramatically change shopping behavior. While many thought the world was getting back to normal, reactions to the Delta variant further demonstrate how important accessing real-time data and flexibility are to marketers who need to be ready to swiftly adapt their marketing plans,” said Marta Cyhan, Catalina chief marketing officer.

When it comes to food, sales of low-calorie, “diet” and convenience foods started to increase as some companies began opening their doors to small numbers of workers after more than 17 months of working from home. This suggests that people who may have gained a few pounds while working from home — in close proximity to their kitchens — realized they may soon have to trade stretchy athleisure wear for more traditional, fitted work clothes. 

Specifically, sales of low calorie/reduced fat snacks have increased 20%, drinkable yogurt for adults has risen 23%, rice and popcorn cakes are up 13%, diet measured meals/snack bars are up 11%, adult nutrition drinks and fresh fruit are both up 12%, and adult nutrition bars increased 10%. The convenience of many of these products is also important to adults and to kids busy with planned summer activities like camp and sports leagues. But it's important for grocers to keep in mind that as offices push back opening dates and events are canceled, these trends may reverse. 

On Friday, a key consumer sentiment index reported a dramatic drop in early August as the delta variant of COVID-19 has increased fears about the economy. The consumer sentiment index dropped to 70.2 in its preliminary August reading. That is down more than 13% from July’s result of 81.2 and below the April 2020 mark of 71.8 that was lowest of the pandemic era. It was the lowest reading for the measure since 2011, according to CNBC.

Retail sales of domestic beer were down 9%, imported beer dropped 6% and craft beer was down 9% through Aug. 7. Bucking the trend, non-alcoholic beer increased by 24%. Meanwhile, domestic wine sales declined by 11%, imported wine by 13% and boxed wine by 11%. Spirits experienced a decline of 10% overall, though premixed cocktails increased by 34%. Also up were canned wine (+5%), hard seltzers (+5%) and low alcohol, “better for you” wines, which surged 356%.

All sales data was pulled from Catalina’s Buyer Intelligence Database, which captures up to three years of purchase history across the United States as well as more than 2 billion Universal Product Codes. 

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