Study reports consumer food buying changes during COVID-19 scare

Food pantry

Consumer behavior is seeing unprecedented changes with the COVID-19 scare according to a study by the Center for Food Integrity. Adapting to these changes is critical.

“Buying patterns have shifted dramatically as people stock up on supplies,” said Carl Perrson, senior director of global cross-category consumer insights at PepsiCo. In addition to hand sanitizers and toilet paper, shoppers are passing over fresh items to fill their carts with canned and frozen foods.

“It really is a reversal of everything we learned about shopper trends over the past decade or so,” he said. “I imagine there’ll be a great awareness of the notion of preparation and of keeping a supply.”

According to the Consumer Trust Insight Council, consumers are also buying other items- guilty pleasure items.

While, on one hand, consumers are buying healthy food as a preventative measure, sales of treats like chocolate, cookies and beverages are ticking up. If social distancing measures continue for long, the council predicts people increasingly will seek out little indulgences to bring them joy during anxious times.

“It’s going to take us a little bit to see how this evolves and whether this does lead to fundamental changes in culture,” said Ujwal Arkulgud, founder of MotivBase and a member of CTIC and the CFI Board of Directors. “We know things are going to get worse. We just don’t know the degree to which that will happen. Culturally and in terms of the impact on businesses, it’s a wait and watch game.”

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