E. Liz Sloan

A. Elizabeth Sloan

July 2021

Volume 75, No. 6

Consumers Adapt as COVID Crisis EasesAs the number of U.S. consumers vaccinated against COVID-19 increases, some pandemic-driven behaviors are changing while others persist. For a comprehensive look at emerging demographic trends driving consumer behavior, check out the “Demographic Disruption” feature.

  • Health Concerns Persist. Half (49%) of consumers were still extremely/very concerned about COVID-19 in late May, according to Datassential’s “Simply Smarter” webcast. Four in 10 (42%) felt the health crisis would last into 2022 or longer; one-third (31%) were still avoiding eating out.
  • At-Home Meals. Although still elevated, the share of meals prepared at home has begun to fall, according to an IRI report. It was 81% in March 2021 versus 89% in April 2020. The number of those cooking more than 90% of meals at home dropped from 58% to 42%. Going forward, four in 10 consumers say they expect to prepare more meals at home than they did prior to COVID-19, per FMI.
  • Back to the Office. One-third (32%) of employed adults were working from home full-time in mid-May, and another 21% were doing so part-time. In contrast, 19% were back in the office full-time; 27% never worked from home during the pandemic, according to a Harris Poll.
  • Some Still Shopping Online for Now. Although 59% of consumers brought some groceries online for the year ending March 2021, only 49% say they will continue to do so in the next 12 months. Fourteen percent do all or most of their grocery purchasing online, per Coresight Research.
  • Dining Out. Same-store sales for chain restaurants jumped 9.1% in the first quarter of 2021, per a Technomic update. By early May, 42% of adults had eaten inside a restaurant dining room in the past two weeks, up 14% versus late February, according to a Datassential webcast. Takeout/delivery/drive-thru remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to the National Restaurant Association.
  • Sales Comparisons. With consumer grocery sales returning to more normal patterns after spiking to unprecedented levels during the pandemic’s shelter-in-place period, it will be most relevant to compare 2021 sales with both 2020 and 2019 to reliably determine growth patterns. When first-quarter 2021 sales are compared to 2019, seafood led dollar sales gains, up 26.1%, followed by frozen food, +21.7%; alcoholic beverages, +19.4%; meat, +17.2%; beverages, +17.0%; center store food, +14.1%; refrigerated/dairy products, +12.4%; produce, +11.5%; deli products, +9.2%; and bakery products, +8.5%, per IRI data.

REFERENCES

Coresight Research. 2021. U.S. Online Grocery Survey: Post Surge Prospects. March.

Datassential. 2021. “Simply Smarter.” Webcast, May 27. Datassential, Los Angeles. datasssential.com.

Datassential. 2021. “COVID-19: “Roaring Back.” Webcast, May 11.

FMI. 2021. U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends: Cooking. May. Food Marketing Institute, Alexandria, Va. fmi.org.

Harris. 2021. Harris Poll COVID-19 Tracker. Work from Home. The Harris Poll, New York, N.Y. theharrispoll.com.

IRI. 2021. “Top Trends in Fresh: Perishables’ Roles in a Pandemic Retail Landscape.” Webcast, March 3. IRI, Chicago. iriworlwide.com.

IRI. 2021. “IRI Leaderboard: Q1 2021 Emerging Growth Pocket.”

NRA. 2021. “A Look Back at Consumers’ Restaurant Activity.” Press release, March 19. The National Restaurant Assoc., Washington, D.C. restaurant.org.

About the Author

A. Elizabeth Sloan, PhD, a member of IFT and contributing editor of Food Technology, is president, Sloan Trends Inc., Escondido, Calif. ([email protected])

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E. Liz Sloan

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