5 COVID-19 Shopping Patterns that are Here to Stay

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Everyone made changes during COVID-19, many of which will fall away as it becomes safe to leave the house and interact again—but not all changes are on their way out.

NielsenIQ has compiled a list of COVID-19 changes that are here to stay. The company examined millions of brick-and-mortar and online shopping occasions to identify which categories have shown a consistent level of increased purchasing since the start of COVID, according to a press release. It identified five sustained growth themes that have developed in the last 12 months.

1. Germaphobia
Cleanliness and hygiene, the press release notes, took top priority throughout the pandemic—which has also created a new generation of germaphobes. Chances are good, therefore, that this mindset will remain even after the pandemic ends. This category includes multipurpose cleaners, kitchen and bathroom sanitizing products and concentrates, and, of course, hand sanitizer. That said, NielsenIQ points out that some of this growth was driven by at-home eating, which requires post-meal clean-ups. As people return to restaurants, growth will slow in this category.

2. Experimental Eating
The pandemic gave shoppers the opportunity to experiment with new flavors, ingredients, and recipes, offering consumers the time and desire for something new to try out different foods and cooking techniques. Seafood, plant-based meat alts, fresh herbs, and marinades have all shown consistent in-store growth throughout COVID, with meat alts seeing a 160% growth over the 56 week period ended 4/13/2021. Over the same period, peppercorns saw 121% growth; fresh herbs in general saw 32% growth, and marinades saw 30% growth. Seafood became a leading in-store traffic driver in 2020, with a 28.4% increase in sales, the press release states, citing FMI’s 2021 Power of Seafood Report.

3. Mealtime Shifts
Without trips to work, workers shifted away from coffee shops and breakfast establishments, and began eating a more leisurely breakfast at home; the press release states that this boosted the demand for sausage, waffles, and cereal, eaten later in the day. English muffins and crumpets saw a 131% growth, while breakfast foods in general saw a 28% growth.

4. DIY Personal Care
Beauty and personal care didn’t vanish during the pandemic—they just shifted. 15% of U.S. beauty consumers are cutting their own hair, 19% are embracing a more natural wlook, and 26% are wearing less makeup overall, while the nail grooming category grew 144%. Customers switched from makeup and perfume to self-care products, enabling the beauty and personal care segment to finish off 2020 with 16% dollar growth, the press release says.

5. Frozen Foods
Customers are looking to go simple, easy, and convenient, and frozen food slots right into that desire. Shoppers pushed frozen food into a 23% year-over-year jump in 2020, according to NielsenIQ data, and is expected to continue growing. Frozen food also allows for less food waste, which is an appealing attribute.

Related: Nielsen Report Considers Impact of New Customers on E-Commerce Trends
IRI: COVID-19 Still Drives Consumer Attitudes; Value Fuels Decision-Making
A New Food Era is Coming—Here Are 3 Ways Companies Can be Ready

The press release closed by noting that, regardless of the fact that vaccines are rolling out, consumer habits will show a surprising resilience. It concludes: “retail trading partners can better position themselves to win by identifying where the opportunities exist and retooling their playbooks with new approaches to more effectively deliver on omnishoppers’ needs.”