FMI-Hartman US Shoppers and COVID-19 Wave 5

From the outset, it was evident that the coronavirus pandemic would not be a short-lived event. It has profoundly changed our world — and continues to shape attitudes and behaviors in ways unimagined. The “normal” we once thought we knew is gone.

In the weeks and months over which the crisis chased Americans into self-isolation and working from home, we have had some time to process events, observe consumers’ changing attitudes and behaviors, and watch trends emerge and evolve.

While our post-COVID-19 future is quite uncertain, we have gained deeper insights into evolving areas of concern, evaluation and priorities expected from grocery retailers and other changing patterns, all rooted in the broader public situation through routine tracking surveys that The Hartman Group and FMI have been fielding since late March 2020.

Here are three key findings from the latest Hartman Group/FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker report: April 29 – May 10, 2020.

Consumer concern about COVID-19 and its impact on food for the home continues to decline from its peak level measured in early April, even as many Americans remain worried about disruptions to their access to food and groceries.

Consumer concerns about COVID-19 in general, and ability to pay for food specifically, continue to fall: 63% are Overall Concern about COVID-19 Chartextremely/very concerned about COVID-19 in general (down from 69% in mid-April and 74% in early April).

However, despite fewer actual out-of-stock experiences, early May still sees many consumers worried about finding specific items they need (59%) and about the supply chain as a whole (49%).

The pandemic has prompted an evolution in the habits and skills of urbanites, especially younger adults, more dramatic than those of suburban or rural residents.

Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic to date, urban residents, especially younger generations, have said they enjoy grocery shopping far more than suburban or rural residents. They are also more likely to say they have enjoyed eating more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Consumers report having acquired new food-related skills and habits since the onset of the pandemic. Urban dwellers in particular, especially younger adults, report having learned new skills, such as cooking meals and meal planning. They have also gained experience relying on online options for a greater share of their groceries.

New habits gained under COVID-19

With most still living in places without access to dine-in restaurants, city residents, especially younger adults, are more likely to have been:

• Learning new cooking skills (37% of urbanites, vs. 22% overall).

• Enjoying eating more (34%, vs. 28% overall).

• Learning how better to plan meals across the week (32%, vs. 26% overall).

They have also gained experience relying on online options for their groceries more frequently. Across all geographies and generations and regardless of any new culinary learning, many adults report cooking more of their own meals (42%), planning more in advance (26%), and more successfully avoiding food waste (37%).

An overwhelming majority of Americans expect some of their COVID-19 shopping habits to continue to some degree once the pandemic becomes less of a concern. They especially intend to continue to cook more than they had been.

Seven out of eight (88%) adults expect at least some persistent change to their food habits, with expected shifts to cooking, dining, shopping and/or household food management. Almost half of adults (49%) expect to prepare meals at home more frequently, and large numbers (38%) expect to eat out less. This holds true across generations, but even more so for younger adults.

In sum, far more Americans say they expect to cook more and eat out less than those who say they will visit stores more or order online more. They may not yet have a clear picture of “how” they will access food retail moving forward, but the expectation and intent is there to rely more on food for the home.

About The Hartman Group/FMI U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker report

To assess the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. grocery shopper perceptions and behaviors, The Hartman Group and FMI are conducting online tracking surveys. This report represents findings from the first five waves of research. These findings are based on responses from: N=1,020 U.S. adults, April 29 – May 10, 2020. You can learn more about the five reports and obtain copies through the FMI website: U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends COVID-19 Tracker report