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Manufacturing Industry Updates Retail Industry Updates

COVID-19 Has Brought More Consumers Back to the Dinner Table

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What’s the future hold for the food industry?

The president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, which represents retailers, producers and other companies that provide services to the food industry, offers up an answer:

“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 Leslie Sarasin.

Sarasin’s comments reflect the findings in Arlington, Va.-based FMI’s new U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends report, which extensively tracks consumer grocery shopping habits. Prepared by The Hartman Group, the 2020 report provides a picture of grocery shopping habits before the pandemic, attitude shifts that took place during COVID-19 and offers a glimpse of what might come next for the food industry.

Prior to the pandemic, U.S. grocery shopper trends were following a familiar pattern. Weekly household trips to the grocery store remained high, at 2.7 trips per week, and shoppers continued to utilize several different channels (4.1) and banners (5.0) to meet their monthly grocery needs, according to the report. In the early weeks of COVID-19, the report found that weekly trips to the grocery store by households increased to 3.6, while 40 percent of shoppers reported they were shopping fewer stores for their household grocery needs.

In early 2020, 14.5 percent of grocery spending was online, a significant increase over the previous year, according to the report. However, COVID-19 greatly accelerated the move to online grocery shopping with online spending doubling to 27.9 percent of all grocery spending during March and April. Many shoppers are new to online grocery shopping and have been willing to break previous barriers, including 12 percent reporting purchasing fresh produce online for the first time, the report learned.

The report also found:

• Nearly all families (87 percent) reported eating together as important, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only amplified this.

• Some younger shoppers, namely 48 percent of Gen Z and millennials, said they are eating healthier during the pandemic.

• 41 percent of shoppers said they are cooking more, and 42 percent are minimizing trips to the store.

• Before the pandemic, nearly all (90 percent) grocery shoppers reported dining out sometimes, but during March and April only 45 percent of shoppers reported utilizing restaurant delivery while 35 percent reported cooking at home six to seven days a week.

“The food industry will continue to listen to consumers and let them guide us on how to best meet their changing household needs,” Sarasin said. “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.”

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