How the Pandemic Has Changed Grocery Shopping

Sep 27, 2020 | Insight

The “new normal” has become a popular term amidst the global coronavirus pandemic and how it has changed the way so many people around the world live. One of the biggest changes has been how we shop for groceries.


With COVID-19 affecting all sectors of the business world, the food and beverage industry has been especially affected by social distancing policies in countries around the world.

In the United States, like other countries around the globe, for the first time in a generation, Americans are now spending more money on groceries than at places where someone else makes the food.

According to Kim Severson writing over at The New York Times, “Grocers saw eight years of projected sales growth packed into one month. Shopping trends that were in their infancy were turbocharged.”

While more and more people heading to the kitchen is a direct result of COVID-19 and will likely slow down once the virus is (hopefully) under control, industry watchers say that the trend could continue post-COVID.

“This is a pivotal time in our history,” Anna Nagurney, a supply chains professor in the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts told the Times. “Not all of what we’ve seen will stick, but a lot of it will.”

There is no disputing that more people are buying shopping for their own homecooked meals more than ever but, what exactly has changed? Here are seven identifiable trends that show the way COVID has changed how we shop.

Online Grocery Shopping Booming

According to research by Kantar, by the end of April 2020, the eCommerce share of the grocery market was a cumulative 12.4% across China, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom, up from 8.8% at the end of 2019.

Since the pandemic started, new customers have boosted the number of online grocery buyers by 30.0% globally according to Kantar’s research.

According to the BBC, Google searches worldwide for “food delivery” and “local food” reached all-time highs in April. In the UK, people were six times more likely to look for “veg boxes” than a year ago. The crisis made us all re-examine how we get our groceries and where they come from.

Roomier Grocery Aisles

Shopping during the COVID era has seen grocery chains create wider aisles, the implementation of new and more strict sanitation policies, and less-crowded stores.

Walmart, for example, has been testing a new system to do away with the conventional checkout lines, by creating open areas ringed by 34 terminals that allow shoppers to scan their purchases or have staff help them scan their items.

 Image by Kelly Sikkema

Less Choice and So Long Free Samples

For years, the world has seen an astounding increase in choices at their local grocery store, be it the large chains or even the local mom and pop.

According to The New York Times, “Grocers have found that they can still do a brisk business with fewer choices,” adding that end of aisle displays are now “more likely to hold bulk packages of staples,” rather than newly-released products that are looking to gain market share.

And, at least for the near foreseeable future, until post-pandemic, there are no more free samples due to increased health risks involved with giving out those tasty-little teasers that we all have come to know and love.


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