Some Shopping Habits Expected to Change After COVID-19

Consumers will be more price-sensitive and will seek functional foods.

February 02, 2021

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Shopping trends developed during the pandemic, such as premiumization and a shift toward larger package sizes, is expected to ease in 2021 as consumption moves away from home, according to

Demand for CPG products will continue to be “unprecedented” through 2021, but 65% of categories will see sales declines as they lap 2020's explosive growth, reports IRI, the market research firm.

As consumers find more items regularly in-stock, their price sensitivity will increase, driving them toward value and private-label brands and "right-sizing" packages, IRI expects. But look for premiumization, indulgence, taste exploration, health and wellness and sustainability to continue driving sales in some categories.

IRI anticipates that manufacturers will need to gear up as vaccine distribution accelerates and consumers return to many of their pre-pandemic habits. The IRI report highlighted several themes that defined 2020, including the triple-digit growth in e-commerce; a double-digit increase in frozen products and alcoholic beverages; premiumization across multiple categories, and significant growth in sustainability claims, including plant-based ingredients and recycled packaging.

After spending most of 2020 working to stay healthy, many consumers have discovered the benefits of functional foods. In April, the International Food Information Council's annual survey found that one in five consumers said they were making healthier choices than usual because of the pandemic. 

But going into 2021, 28% of consumers said they’re worried about being able to afford enough food, according to results of a separate IFIC survey released in December. With consumers pinching pennies, IRI sees value products and private label as an emerging pocket of growth. This focus on finances also may have some unexpected benefits for categories such as frozen products, which are traditionally seen as an economical choice to save both time and money. In 2020, sales of frozen seafood and fruit saw double-digit gains, according to IRI, and that upward growth trend could continue into 2021. 

The pandemic spurred many U.S. consumers to cook more in their own kitchens, giving fresh foods an 11% sales boost and meat a 35% lift in 2020, according to IRI. Younger generations drove sales growth in baking and comfort items. Even though many consumers are tiring of cooking at home, a survey by Hunter found that 71% say they will continue cooking following the pandemic.

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