Consumers buying more fresh food, but making fewer trips to store

16 October 2020 2 min. read
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The pandemic is, unsurprisingly, driving changes in how consumers shop for fresh food groceries, according to a recent report from consulting firm Deloitte. Anxiety around safety has emerged as a primary factor in purchasing decisions, found the survey of 2,000 US shoppers.

According to Deloitte’s “The Future of Fresh” report, more than half (54%) of consumers feel stress shopping in stores, which has resulted in less frequent shopping trips. The number of shoppers who said they shop for fresh food multiple times per week dropped by half (15%) in 2020 from the 30% who did so in pre-pandemic 2019 .

However, fresh food is valued more than ever in the pandemic era, with 9 in 10 respondents saying it “makes them happy.” As such, consumers have actually been buying more fresh food despite fewer shopping trips, amid a larger trend of food stockpiling.

Consumer food hoarding and supply chain disruptions have resulted in stockouts for numerous categories, including fresh food. Deloitte found that two-thirds of consumers have been unable to buy the fresh food they wanted because it was out of stock. In response, consumers have opted for an alternative fresh food item (40%), bought a frozen or processed replacement (28%), or bought nothing (26%). Shoppers were reluctant to go to another store to find the item.

Consumers buying more fresh food, but making fewer trips to store

“With consumers spending less time commuting, they have more time to prepare fresh meals. However, they are conflicted and want to avoid the anxiety of shopping at multiple stores to purchase the fresh items they want,” said Barb Renner, leader for the US consumer products sector at Deloitte.

Though price has remained a primary factor in fresh food purchasing decisions, the pandemic has made safety an equally important factor – with nearly 90% of respondents identifying price and safety as important purchase drivers.

Meanwhile, sustainability and local sourcing slipped in importance (70%), as consumers struggle with the financial fallout of the Covid-19 downturn, increasing food prices, and stockouts.

The Deloitte survey found two distinct consumer profiles in fresh food shopping: typically younger “contemporary” shoppers driving innovation in the category (40% of respondents) and typically older “conventional” shoppers with traditional approaches to grocery shopping (60% of respondents).

Contemporary shoppers are much more likely to have bought fresh food online (68%) compared to conventional shoppers (9%), and are twice as likely to be interested in subscription boxes such as Hello Fresh or Blue Apron (59% vs 26%).

Contemporary consumers are also more willing to pay a premium for fresh food (75% vs 62%) and have also increased their fresh purchases in the last four months at nearly double the level of conventional shoppers (50% vs 27%).