How Grocery Shopping Changed During a Pandemic?

The year has been challenging for retailers and food chains since the pandemic outbreak, so much so that the consequences are still prevalent. Customers stopped going out for grocery shopping to prevent contracting the deadly virus!

2020 marked a permanent shift from brick-and-mortar shopping to the more convenient online shopping, in which consumers can get their items home-delivered. While this has a lot of positive sides, there are negative aspects associated with online shopping as well.

Contactless shopping means fewer opportunities for innovations, elimination of free sample distribution, fewer brand choices, the rise of unhealthy eating patterns, delivery issues and delays, etc. In short, the pandemic has changed the way customers shop for their daily essentials.

And when this wasn’t enough, increasing unemployment rates, rising food and grocery item prices, sparse EBT acceptance, and unavailability of flexible payment options, started adding up to our hardships. Besides, the work-from-home way of life has altered our eating habits, which led shoppers to spend way more on grocery shopping.

As per the reports, around 80-90% of customers believe they would be facing a recession soon. Further, about 89% of them are affected by COVID-19, with the consequences being felt to this day.

The managing director of L.E.K. Consulting, Maria Steingoltz, opined that buyers are adopting new shopping patterns and behaviors with the imposition of new social norms and restrictions in response to COVID-19. In fact, some of us have started exploring new talents and hobbies, like cooking, painting, exercising at home, opening startups, social media browsing, etc.

All these changes in consumer behaviors need to be taken into account by retailers and eCommerce stores. Brands need all these vital data to engage with their consumers better in this new normal. It has become way more challenging for them to cater to the unique needs of their audiences.

Here are some ways the pandemic has changed how Americans do food and grocery shopping.

Better Shopping Lists

Since customers are minimizing their trips to the grocery stores as far as possible, they are coming up with better shopping lists, comprising the most essential things. People are now visiting shops with a certain purpose and have become cautious regarding where to make expenses.

Further, with the trips to the retail stores reduced, customers are seen piling up their shopping carts like never before. This means, retailers need to take care of stocks running out and make sure that they are able to serve each of their consumers during this vital time.

Earlier people used to decide what to buy while on their way back home. But in the COVID-19 era, only 10% of Americans shop for food more than 3 times per week. The number was 19% before the pandemic outbreak, according to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company.

Rise in Orange Sales

To tell the truth, now we get to see oranges in our fruit basket almost every day. Orange sales have been rising since March of this year, and are already up by 11% from the previous year, as observed by the Produce Marketing Association’s Vice President, Joe Watson.

According to yet another study, grocers sold 73% more oranges in May of this year, than they did at that time last year. In July too, the sales were higher by 52% than last year.

The reason behind such a boost in orange sales is that they have a longer shelf life than any other fruit. This is a crucial factor for those who have fewer opportunities for storing food. Besides, oranges are great if seen as an immunity-booster!

Consumers today are more health-conscious, and are ready to do anything it takes to stay healthy and fit. This is why the year saw a rise in honey sales as well.

Options are Getting Reduced

Before the pandemic, the American supermarkets used to be teeming with products from various brands, providing buyers with a range of different options. However, after the virus outbreak, store owners have pulled back on their variety, leaving customers with very limited choices.

Besides, brands have more or less stopped giving out free samples, mostly due to health risks. Specialty promotions have also been restricted this year. Therefore, shoppers are sticking to only the brands and products they are aware of, without exploring other options.

Grocers have realized that they can still manage to keep their business running even with fewer choices. Consumers are more likely to shop for their necessary items and staples in bulk rather than go around to look for new products. Online shoppers, on the other hand, are relying on the autofill policies and algorithms, and hence, are less likely to make any impulsive purchasing.

Growing Trend of Frozen Food Purchases

Frozen food has grown increasingly popular this year with the sales jumping to 94% in March, as per the records of the American Frozen Food Institute. In the initial days of lockdown, customers were stocking up frozen foods in their freezers. Besides, some considered these frozen vegetables and fruits to be less expensive.

Moreover, many buyers even believed them to be more reliable alternatives to fresh food. Further, with work from home being the new working norm, employees and business owners considered pulling off frozen food cans from the refrigerator to be much easier than preparing an entire meal.

This practice has been beneficial for some grocers, especially the small brands, as they now have the chance to offer healthier food options. Consumers have gradually started realizing that these companies are improving their food quality and taste.

Improving Store Services

Customers look for a store that takes the basic precautionary measures, such as sanitization, temperature checks, social distancing norms, and new sanitation methods. This means new changes and implementations to be made by the grocers to serve a healthier shopping atmosphere to their visitors.

Additionally, innovative payment systems are being introduced at the stores, including self-checkout, cashless payments, the growth of hassle-free payment apps, and so on.

For example, Walmart, the famous American multinational retail brand, is currently testing a new system designed to replace the traditional grocery merchant checkout lines with a more convenient open plaza that comprises 34 terminals for easier and faster checkout.

The grocery store infrastructures will continue to grow in 2021 and beyond. Grocers are working on making their stores larger due to the huge traffic boost in the past few months when people started stepping out of their homes.