By Steve Markenson, Director, Research, FMI
For five long months, we have all been experiencing the unprecedented realities presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the frustrating truths of supply and the dramatically increased demand for groceries. Once ingrained grocery shopping habits have been forced to evolve to some new behaviors. To assess the impact of COVID-19 on the perceptions and behaviors of grocery shoppers, FMI has been conducting our ongoing U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker survey of consumers since March 21. With the release of our 8th report, we thought it would be a good time to take stock of the past five months and look at where consumers are now.
COVID-19 Resurgence Sparks New Concerns
Since a peak in early April, the level of concern about the pandemic had shown a gradual decline into June. But in July, the level of concern increased, as a majority of Americans (58%) thought COVID-19 restriction were being lifted too quickly in their communities.
Anxiety About Ability To Feed Household Holds Steady
While the food supply chain continues to be a concern among consumers, fewer are experiencing out-of-stocks to the degree that they did during the initial weeks of the pandemic (46% in March to 18% in July). However, concerns about having to the resources to pay for food persist for 21% of Americans.
Shopping Trips Are More Functional
As we have reported, shoppers have evolved their shopping habits during the pandemic to be more functional – fewer, faster, larger, more focused trips. The number of banners shopped, and trips in-store is still down from pre-pandemic levels but has rebounded somewhat in the past two months. Shoppers are continuing to spend more, as they also acknowledge they are also buying more. But even with this elevated spending, some feel they have less food on hand then they should.
Consumers Expect Elevated Sanitation in Food Stores
Shoppers continue to want their food stores to be diligent in their sanitation and hygiene efforts. With shoppers concerns about other shoppers, they also want their stores to promote social distancing, limit the number of shoppers and provide plexiglass around checkout areas.
Shoppers Continue to Rely On Online Channels
The pandemic drove shoppers to online grocery shopping in waves. In the initial weeks, some 20% of Americans tried online grocery shopping for the first time, those who had previously tried returned and those who had been increased their usage. The result was almost doubling of online grocery shopping’s share of the growing grocery shopping spend. Despite less than stellar experiences, the level of online grocery shopping persists at its dramatically elevated rate.
Americans Are Cooking More
With little choice in restaurant options and shelter in place orders, consistently around 40% say they have been cooking more compared to before the pandemic. While many say they expect to cook more in a post-pandemic future, many also report cooking fatigue – looking for interesting food and minimizing time spent cooking. With Americans cooking more, they are also more likely to say they are eating healthier than not.
Food Institutions Maintain Consumer Trust
Throughout this pandemic, we have reported, while the food industry has had its bumps, consumer trust in the food stores has remained consistent and high. This is in contrast to the decreasing trust among the federal, state and local governments. Shoppers have and continue to rate their primary food store’s response to COVID-19 highly.