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Why the Pantry Loading Isn't Over

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
Why the Pantry Loading Isn't Over
When shoppers do go to the store, they are stocking up and spending more, according to the latest Acosta research.

Food retailers should be preparing their supply chains now for a new wave of pandemic pantry loaders heading into the fall and winters seasons.

The latest research from Acosta reports that many shoppers are making fewer trips to the grocery store, spending more on each trip and that stocking up continues.

"With concern levels remaining high and rising in hot spots around the country, most consumers are choosing to stay home, even as many non-essential businesses reopen," said Darian Pickett, CEO of Acosta. "Shopping frequency has drastically declined since March, and with three-quarters of shoppers fearing another shutdown due to the second wave of the virus, shoppers will continue to eat at home for the foreseeable future. We expect the trends of stocking up and spending more on groceries to remain popular."

Acosta's ninth round of COVID-19 research, gathered via online surveys conducted between June 26 and July 1, shows that half of shoppers are just as concerned about the pandemic as they were at the start, and many have become more concerned recently, including 44% of shoppers in the South, where cases are rising.

Three-quarters of shoppers are worried that a second wave could lead to another shutdown.
Despite many non-essential businesses reopening, most consumers are not visiting them. Only 37% of shoppers have gone to retail shops, 30% to hair/nail salons and 27% to dine-in restaurants.

Grocery shopping frequency has greatly declined since the start of the pandemic. Shopping once a week or more has declined 20% (from 67% of shoppers to 47% of shoppers). Shopping less frequently has increased since the pandemic began, with 27% of shoppers now going to the grocery store two to three times a month and 26% going once a month or less.

When shoppers do go to the store, they are stocking up and spending more.
Thirty-seven percent of shoppers reported spending more on each grocery trip now vs. pre-COVID-19. When looking at total household spending, 50% of shoppers are spending more on groceries. Conversely, 66% of shoppers are spending less on eating out than they did pre-pandemic. Of shoppers spending more on groceries, 59% cited eating at home more as their reason, 52% cited higher prices and 50% cited stocking up more.

Based on the latest consumer behavior data, Acosta recommends:

  • Retailers should make meal prep easy for shoppers with cross-department meal solutions, heat-and-serve meal kits and bundle pricing for meal components.
  • Retailers can promote shopper engagement through recipe contests and staycation/picnic photo submissions in exchange for loyalty points.
  • Retailers should leverage digital marketing to optimize reach and relevancy to all shoppers.

The previous round of shopper research from Acosta showed that the pandemic is taking a mental and financial toll on consumer behavior. 

"As the pandemic stretches on, we see the toll it has taken on shoppers financially. Millennials have been hit the hardest, with 43% of shoppers worse off than they were before the outbreak," Pickett said. "A recession is here and will significantly impact the shopping habits of those affected. Low prices and promotions will be among the most important priorities for consumers post-COVID-19, though product availability remains their top concern."

According to the study, shoppers are far more cautious than optimistic about the future, with 64% looking ahead with caution and only 24% looking ahead with optimism.

The recession is adding stress for many shoppers, with 37% worse off financially than they were pre-pandemic —­ including nine percent who are much worse off.

Millennials are the hardest hit generation, with 43% worse off.

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