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Pandemic speeds move to online food shopping

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Food Industry Association (FMI) and The Hartman Group were in the midst of preparing their annual report on trends in grocery shopping when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States. The “before” and “after” impacts illustrate the role the pandemic has played in accelerating the adoption of online food shopping, according to the report.

“In early 2020, 14.5% of grocery spending was online, a significant increase over the previous year,” according to the “2020 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends” report. “However, COVID-19 greatly accelerated the move to online grocery shopping, with online spending doubling to 27.9% 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% reporting purchasing fresh produce online for the first time.”

Prior to the pandemic, U.S. grocery shopper trends were following a familiar pattern, the authors noted. Weekly household trips to the grocery store remained high, at 2.7 per week, and shoppers continued to utilize several different channels (4.1) and banners (5.0) to meet their monthly grocery needs.

Early in the pandemic, the researchers observed that weekly trips to the grocery store by households increased to 3.6, while 40% of shoppers reported they were shopping fewer stores for their household grocery needs.

With millions of Americans sheltering in place to slow the virus’ transmission, households exhibited a desire to cook and eat more at home, the report said. Nearly all families report eating together as important, and the pandemic has amplified this value, the authors said. Some Gen Z and Millennial shoppers report eating healthier during the pandemic. Forty-one percent of surveyed shoppers are cooking more, and 42% are minimizing trips to the store or using perishables before they spoil. Before the pandemic 90% of grocery shoppers reported dinning out sometimes, but during March and April only 45% reported utilizing restaurant delivery, while 35% were cooking at home six to seven days a week.

“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 FMI president and chief executive officer Leslie Sarasin.


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