Category Archives: Grocery shopping trends

Stockpile Alert?

A recent SupermarketNews article shared the results of Inmar Intelligence research that warned retailers and consumers alike that we could be in for another wave of consumer stockpiling.

With COVID-19 infection rates climbing and mounting concerns about the Delta variant, a surprising number of people are fearing the worst.

Of 1,000 U.S. adults surveyed by Inmar, 69.4% said they’re considering replenishing a current stockpile of groceries and other essential products as transmission of the Delta variant increases.

Forty-six percent have already created a product stockpile in response to coronavirus, and 12% of those that haven’t done so said they now will stock up because of the Delta variant.

Another 32.8% said they’re not sure if they will build up their supplies.

Interestingly, sixty percent of consumers polled reported still having products in stockpile they created because of the COVID-19 outbreak! And sixty-five percent said they now plan to always have a stock of food and supplies for emergencies like the pandemic.

If these projections should prove to be accurate, grocery shopping trends could very well shift back to what we experienced at the height of the pandemic, which included larger average order size and an influx in online transactions.

Stores of the Future?

crystal ball

The pandemic has had a significant impact on how people shop, but these buying habits are quickly changing. As a result, today’s supermarket leaders are imagining what tomorrow’s stores will look like.

Based on information published by SuperMarketNews, five key product categories that have been impacted the most include:

  1. Produce. Consumers have been moving toward local produce in supermarkets for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand as customers are more inclined to help out their local producers in a time of need while feeling better about food safety when produce is coming from suppliers they know. That has driven more stores to beef up their efforts to offer local produce.
  2. Bakery. Fresh bakery departments were among the hardest hit sections of the grocery store, as due to the pandemic people were afraid to purchase anything that others could come in contact with. At the onset of COVID-19 bakery sales dropped considerably as shoppers pivoted to purchasing longer shelf-life items and focused on buying staples versus indulgence products. But since last summer and fall, retailers have ramped up safety and protective measures throughout their bakeries and are working to entice customers back.
  3. Meat. Possibly its position as a “comfort food” has kept meat sales at a high level throughout the pandemic. However, as people are going ‘back to work’ it is likely that they will have less time for meal planning and preparation, so value-added innovation with respect to meal prep is going to be a very important factor going forward. Frozen meats also became more popular during the pandemic, and many grocers expect consumers to continue buying this option now that their comfort level with it is high.
  4. Deli. Sales of deli meats have been very high during the pandemic thanks in large part to more lunch occasions at home. However, some shoppers have shied away from the deli area because they have been reluctant to stand around other people while waiting their turn. Consequently, ‘grab and go’ options have become more popular. Finding ways to make people feel comfortable and safe has been a priority, and the current availability of vaccines is expected to ease the problem.
  5. Frozen foods. Pandemic-related efforts for stocking up on grocery items drove a big increase in frozen food sales over the past year, but sales are expected to dip back to more normal levels going forward.

Online Shopping Preferences

A recent SupermarketNews article shared the results of the latest NielsenIQ omnibus poll, which indicated U.S. online shoppers value speed of delivery.

“Same-day delivery, same-day pickup and next-day/later pickup all gained traction among online consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic, whereas two-day and next-day delivery lost interest,” the article said.

Their findings were based on NielsenIQ’s Omnichannel Shopping Fundamentals Survey, conducted in February and March 2021. Other findings of note include:

  • 61% of online grocery shoppers said they prefer same day deliver. This compares to only 27% of shoppers saying they considered same day delivery in September of 2020, versus only 20% in 2019
  • 39% of online shopper panelists claimed a preference for having their product deliveries consolidated in one shipment to reduce packaging and frequency of trips, even if it extended the delivery time
  • 63.2% of homes with children favored quick delivery versus 59.8% of households without kids

Post COVID Supermarket Expectations

After a year of record-setting sales in the grocery industry due to the pandemic retailers are anticipating those once-in-a-lifetime numbers to normalize somewhat in 2021 says a recent SupermarketNews article.

The impact of COVID on the grocery industry, which included some heavy “stock-up” buying, has been significant. Here are some of the highlights:

  • US online grocery sales reached a new high of $9.3 billion
  • Nearly two-thirds of consumers reported switching purchase loyalty to less-expensive brands
  • Sales of meat increased an unprecedented 34.6% during the pandemic
  • Frozen food sales rose 21% over the previous year
  • 85% of consumers said they aim to eat family meals at home more often or the same amount as they did before the pandemic when things return to a “new normal.”

Looking ahead to the balance of 2021, the rollout of vaccines and the reopening of many businesses and a return to indoor dining will have an impact on grocery sales, although most feel they should remain elevated for much of this year.

Canada’s Virtual Food Festival: Another Example of Innovation

In an enormous effort to keep stakeholders at all levels informed and engaged, and another good example of innovative solutions during the pandemic, Canada is running a virtual “Flavors Food Festival.”

The four day event, scheduled for March 22-25, will feature direct connections with Canadian food, beverage, and ingredient companies. Attendees will include supermarket, specialty retail, c-store, food service, food distribution, food manufacturing, and alcohol importers, distributors, and retailers looking to find new products from innovative brands.

Educational breakout sessions will also be offered.

Surprisingly, there is no cost to join in the fun!

More information…

Tech-Driven Improvements an Emerging Trend in Supermarkets

The mounting demand for e-commerce due to COVID-19, and the expectation that it will be necessary to continue offering many of the “new normal” services post-COVID, has resulted in a number of grocery chains making major changes to their infrastructure and improvements in their processes.

As reported by SupermarketNews, some of the process and facility enhancements include:

  • Conversion of store or shelf-space to accommodate online order fulfillment
  • Creation of automated micro-fulfillment centers (MFC’s) to support automated fulfillment for grocery delivery, sometimes referred to as “dark stores” since they have no retail space
  • Curbside pickup
  • Installation of automated pickup points, enabling customers and delivery personnel to drive up, scan a code and retrieve their orders

The expectation is that those retailers who are able to convert store space or operate MFC’s will be better able to scale their business as the demand for e-commerce continues to grow.

“For grocers to adapt and stay relevant — and for consumers to eat the cost of the last mile — grocery retailers need to embrace curbside pickup,” said Rob Wilson and Shang Saavedra in a recent report from L.E.K. Consulting.

“Given that stores are designed for optimal in-store shopping, it’s often inefficient for staff to wander through aisles to assemble orders and, when it comes to operating margins, far from sustainable. Moreover, stores have been forced to quickly create online pickup areas, leading to messy front-of-store experiences for consumers.”

Clearly the costs associated with some of the major changes such as building stand-alone MFC’s favor the larger retailers. One possible solution for smaller chains might be the use of “solution partners” to get the job done.

Either way, and as noted in a recent SupermarketNews article, all indicators say that online grocery shopping and curbside pickup are here to stay.

2020 Saw Big Growth in Omnichannel Shopping!

A recent SupermarketNews article reported that omnichannel consumption grew by 50% this past year, and nearly half of all consumer goods purchases were made via e-commerce.

The report was based on new research from Nielsen.

Not surprisingly, both food and nonfood products have seen marked shifts in omnichannel shopping since the COVID-19 outbreak, and the number of shoppers who deem themselves as “heavy” or “exclusive” online shoppers for everyday items jumped 133% from September 2019 to September 2020.

The article went on to quote Nikhil Sharma, vice president of North America consumer analytics at Nielsen, who said, “Within the U.S., new behaviors have emerged that retailers and manufacturers must acknowledge, accommodate and swiftly act on — especially as online shopping habits begin to solidify. While we do expect a return of some kind to pre-pandemic habits, consumers will not be returning to a pre-pandemic retail environment.”

Order History Tool Most Popular as Consumer Preferences Shift
The article also pointed out that, when making online transactions, 29% of consumers polled by Nielsen found the order history tool to be the most helpful feature when shopping for nonfood items.

In a final statemen Mr. Sharma added, “Undeniably, consumers have more choices than ever in their path to purchase, meaning as consumer needs and preferences continue to evolve, it is crucial to have an omnichannel strategy in place to sustain and grow momentum in 2021.”

More Technology for Food Shoppers

Our previous few posts have focused on technology in supermarkets, used both by the stores themselves and the shoppers.

Along the same trend, as reported in a recent SupermarketNews article, Walmart will literally launch a “technology-driven” pilot in Scottsdale, Arizona in 2021.

The new plan involves a partnership with self-driving car company Cruise to operate an entire fleet of all-electric delivery vehicles powered with 100% renewable energy. The project will support the retail giant’s initiative to reach zero emissions by 2040.

As part of the pilot, customers can place an order from their local store and have it delivered, contact-free, via one of Cruise’s all-electric self-driving cars.

“Technology that has the potential to not only save customers time and money but also is helpful to the planet is technology we want to learn more about,” said Tom Ward, senior vice president of customer product, Walmart U.S.

“This year, we’ve had our foot on the accelerator expanding our pickup and delivery services, so customers can get the items they need quickly and safely,” he continued.

So, the trend continues…

Digitized Food Shopping?

89% of U.S. grocery shoppers now use a smartphone at the store says research from Acosta.

The data was published in a recent SupermarketNews article, which stated the current figures marked an increase when compared to the 67% who said they used smartphones while shopping in 2015.

“Mobile-assisted grocery shopping is here to stay and offers a great opportunity for brands and retailers to truly meet the needs of today’s shoppers,” said Colin Stewart, executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta. “By delivering an end-to-end approach from mobile recipe/meal planning and list making to e-commerce and an in-store experience that is enhanced by mobile, they can not only attract more customers but also engage with them in new and meaningful ways, during the pandemic and beyond.”

Some additional data that might be of interest includes:

  • 58% of consumers polled report being comfortable using digital and online tools to help with food shopping, compared with 42% in 2017 and 35% in 2015
  • 70% reported using a grocery retailer’s app while shopping
  • 34% of shoppers said they view their grocery store circular online
  • 30% of grocery shoppers said they redeem online/mobile coupons downloaded to their smartphone, up from 24% in 2017 and 19% in 2015

Post-COVID Supermarkets?

Agilence, Inc., a data and analytics reporting company, recently conducted a survey of decision-makers in the grocery industry about how COVID-19 has impacted their business, how they’ve managed this change, and what plans they have in place for a post-pandemic world.

Among the current practices that most retailers plan to continue long-term post-COVID are:

  • Curbside pick-up (75%)
  • Sneeze barriers at checkout (60%)
  • Cleaning of carts per use (50%)

The practices many plan to continue for 3-6 months post-pandemic are:

  • Associates fitted with PPE (62%)
  • Six-foot separation at checkout (60%)
  • Specialized hours for seniors (45%)

Interestingly, 87% of respondents said they think “safety & cleanliness” will be an important component of their marketing/brand message over the coming year.

Developing or enhancing proprietary online food delivery service was also identified as a priority by most respondents, and 93% said they plan to increase their spending in IT over the next year. Below is a graph indicating the types of technology initiatives in which grocers plan to invest:

investment categories
Anticipated Supermarket IT Investment by Category 2020 – 2021