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More Than a Year into the COVID-19 Pandemic, What Are Consumers Buying Right Now?

By Published On: August 23, 2021

As the health crisis continues to evolve, so does consumer purchasing behavior. At the start of the pandemic, several disruptions and changes in buying behaviors emerged and shifted purchasing priorities towards the need for sanitizing products and easy-to-prepare meals and snacks.  

While in-store shopping is still thriving, online grocery shopping has quadrupled since 2017 with factors such as convenience and safety measures driving the spike. A year into the pandemic, several changes have once again been observed in the food retail industry, especially in how we operate our businesses. However, when it comes to consumers, how much have things changed and what are they buying right now?

Plant-based Food

Consumers are in the hunt for healthier alternatives now more than ever. Plant-based meat, seafood, and dairy continue to be on consumers’ minds when in grocery aisles. According to the Good Food Institute and Plant-Based Foods Association, in 2020, plant-based food retail sales reached $7 billion with plant-based meat leading the sales gains. The “health halo”, inherent to plant-based foods and their sustainability benefits, will continue to be the driving force for a continued rise in demand during 2021.

Fresh and Prepared Foods

It seems like easy-to-prepare meals at home will never go out of style! During, and even after the pandemic, it is believed consumers will still want to buy prepared foods that they can simply toss in the oven. According to Statista (a statistics portal for market and consumer data), the global revenue of ready-to-eat meals reached approximately $465 billion in 2021. With convenience being at the forefront, fresh and prepared foods that have shown a significant rise in sales in 2020 will stick around this year.

Meat and Seafood

Plant-based meat and seafood may be gaining traction a year into the pandemic, but its fresh and frozen counterparts are still strong and continue surging in demand. Fresh and frozen seafood sales are forecast to see double-digit growth in dollar sales in 2021. In tandem with this, Americans are buying more meat as well, evidenced by a grocery sales increase of 19.2% from 2019 to 2020 (IRI data, 2021 Power of Meat report).

As retailers continue to compete for a slice of the consumer dollar spending, these food products’ consistent demand throughout the year will partly depend on the retailers. Food retailers must keep their customers informed and engaged, whether in-store or online and leverage these to help customers make informed purchasing decisions of these in-demand foods. Also, merchandising strategies partnered with the right equipment and display case to match will further put a spotlight on these food products.

The changes in buying behavior of consumers as the health crisis carries on have a silver lining. These changes show that no matter how difficult things get, consumers will always find ways to innovate what and how they consume food – and we’ll make sure in the food retail industry to meet their needs every step of the way.