For those of us who still prefer to go to the store for our groceries, our in-store behavior changed dramatically in 2020 due to the pandemic. Here are 10 ways COVID-19 shaped our grocery shopping behavior.
1. Increase in Perimeter Shopping
Constant messaging encouraging social distancing has driven shoppers out of the center of the store towards the perimeter. Shoppers cut down their time spent in-store by avoiding the aisles. Moreover, the trend towards healthier, fresh meal options caused an increase in traffic around the fish, cheese, meat and bakery sections typically located along the perimeter.
2. Front-end Impulse Shopping Took a Big Hit
It’s easier not to be tempted by those impulse items like candy bars and magazines when you’re standing six feet apart at the check-out and can’t easily reach them. Wanting to save money and get in and out as fast as possible have also been cited as reasons for fewer impulse purchases.
3. Growth in Private Label
Private label brands saw an almost 15% year over year increase as consumers looked for ways to make their grocery shopping dollar go further. Supply shortages of name brands and big quality improvements in private label brands are also reasons for this trend.
4. More Brand Switching
In order to save money, more people are more likely to switch brands. Out-of-stocks also forced people to try something new.
5. Purpose Driven Shopping
Shoppers make fewer trips to the store but buy more when they do shop. Shoppers now go to the store not to browse, but instead with a purpose in mind. Shoppers are stocking up on everything from toilet paper to flour. The number of people who shopped for food more than three times a week has dropped to 10 percent from 19 percent before the pandemic. (McKinsey & Company)
6. Less Attention to In-store Promotions
End Cap displays, signage and other in-store promotions all received less attention as shoppers tried to get in and out as fast as possible. We were more likely to see paper towel featured at the end of an aisle rather than some new trendy product. Endcap engagement is down as shoppers look beyond the displays to the next aisle to ensure proper distancing requirements.
7. Fresh Produce and Natural Products Big Winners
By mid-March sales of “natural products” were up 78 percent over the year before according to IRI. In an effort to increase immunity, fresh produce like oranges and natural products are big sellers. People just don’t want to get sick right now and it’s evident in the food they’re buying.
8. Less Choice Overall
Overall there is less choice as supply chains became disrupted and shoppers were not in the mood to experiment by trying something new. The pandemic prohibited giving out free samples in store.
9. Frozen Food Gains Popularity
At the start of the pandemic, people were drawn to frozen foods as a way of stocking up. Once they discovered the freezer case they began to experiment with new options like frozen meals and vegetarian lines.
10. Growing Trend Towards Buying Local
Concerns over health and safety, unreliable supply chains and a desire to support the local community all played a role in the growth of food that is raised or produced locally. Meal kits prepared by chefs are being sold by local grocers, struggling restaurants have become distribution centers and community-supported agricultural subscriptions have waiting lists.
It remains to be seen whether these trends will continue but given the length of the pandemic, it’s safe to assume that some of these behaviors will linger long after the pandemic is over.