Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers were spending more on restaurant dining every year, with less of their paychecks going to home-cooked meals. COVID-19 has stopped, or perhaps just paused, that trend, findings from FMI- The Food industry Association (FMI) U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2020 report suggest. The report, prepared by The Hartman Group, outlines grocery shopping habits before the pandemic, looks at attitude shifts taking place during the crisis and suggests what might be next after COVID-19 concerns and restrictions ease. Will increased online shopping and at-home cooking remain popular?
Likely, trends will head back to where they had been before this public health crisis started, said Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO of FMI. “In looking toward the future, most consumers expect to return to their pre-pandemic levels of in-store grocery shopping and more than a fourth of consumers expect to be ordering more groceries online in the future,” said Sarasin. “The food industry will continue to listen to consumers and let them guide us on how to best meet their changing household needs. Whatever comes next, we know the supply chain is tremendously resilient and that we can flex, pivot and accommodate the demands of the nation’s grocery shoppers.”
FMI’s report originally included data taken from 2,000 qualitative interviews conducted in February 2020. But due to the pandemic, the researchers decided to include insights from a COVID-19 Tracker survey that was distributed in 4 waves between March 21 and April 25. Data from both surveys is included in the 56 page report. Topics include consumer grocery spending habits, cooking habits, and consumer product interests.
“For decades, FMI has been tracking the attitudes and behaviors driving food and grocery shopping, always looking at the present moment in the context of long-term trends and cultural shifts, always on the lookout for impending disruptions for industry stakeholders to navigate,” the report authors wrote. “This year, however, in less time than it takes for a seasonal holiday promotion to come and go, the microscopic novel coronavirus behind today’s deadly pandemic has already prompted a generation’s worth of macro-level change, upending food life in every community across America. Long-term trends now must be seen in the context of the current moment rather than vice versa.”
Whether it’s the economic recession, pandemic, or lifestyle changes, consumers are changing the way they shop and what they buy. Store brand or popular household names? Online or in-store shopping? Cooking at home or going out to eat? All of these questions are discussed in detail. One key finding: “Food spending at retailers alone jumped from 50% in February to 63% in March, returning to levels not seen since March 1995. April’s 68% has turned back the clock even further.”
Also noteworthy: Within the immunity market, there’s been tremendous interest in health and wellness. Shelley Balanko, Ph.D., SVP of Business Development at The Hartman Group, gave a keynote speech at Taking Control of the Immunity & Wellness Market virtual event hosted by WholeFoods Magazine and Trust Transparency Center. That session can be viewed on demand here.