KANSAS CITY — As regions across the United States have opened following pandemic-induced lockdowns a key question for food and beverage industry executives is which trends that emerged during the past 15 months will stick?
Ali Webster, director of research and nutrition communications for the International Food Information Council (IFIC), Minneapolis, identified two trends that may stick during a presentation during the Institute of Food Technologists’ FIRST conference taking place virtually this week.
“The first (trend) probably isn’t that surprising,” Ms. Webster said. “It’s that online grocery shopping really took a huge leap over the past year. We found in 2021 that a full 20% of people, one in five, were shopping online for groceries at least on a weekly basis. This is compared to the 11% who said this in 2020 and 13% in 2019. Forty-two percent of people say they are online shopping at least monthly this year compared to a third of people last year.”
But IFIC took their research a step further and asked consumers if they planned to continue shopping for groceries online.
“Most people who said they were doing more online grocery shopping said they planned to continue to do so after the pandemic,” Ms. Webster said. “And many people said they would actually increase the frequency of their online grocery shopping.
“Nearly 40% said they would do it more often and nearly a third said they would stick with what they were doing. Just 20% said they would buy groceries online less often.”
The demographic that said it would reduce online orders were people 65 years and older. This group of consumers was the most isolated during the height of the pandemic and may look forward to shopping in stores, Ms. Webster said.
Another consumer trend emerging from the pandemic is many consumers are taking a closer look at the healthfulness of their diets.
“In a survey we did at the end of 2020, in December, we found that every one in three people said their habits had become healthier,” Ms. Webster said. “A significant chunk of people established or re-established healthy eating patterns and it seems like many people are sticking with it.”
But the trend is not spread evenly among different consumer groups. Younger consumers, for example, said their eating habits had become healthier.
“This is a group of people who may have less on their plate family-wise or are just establishing their own eating habits,” Ms. Webster said.
Women were more likely than men to say their eating habits had become less healthy during the pandemic. Ms. Webster said it was due to the “undue burden” placed on many women during the period.
“Whether that be through taking care of children or taking responsibility for online learning, or all of the above while shouldering a full-time job, there does seem to be less time available,” she said.