Grocery Shopping Habits Evolve With Vaccination Count

Sales of staples are down as consumers embrace a “sense of normalcy.”

June 02, 2021

Woman in Grocery Isle

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—The U.S. COVID-19 vaccination rate for adults who’ve received at least one dose now tops 60%, and shoppers are ready to return to a sense of normalcy, according to data from CPG, a leader in shopper intelligence.

When shelter-at-home requirements were implemented in March 2020, consumers began making fewer shopping trips to their local grocery store, although they purchased more merchandise with each visit, whether shopping in person or online. This trend of fewer trips yet higher dollar sales and basket sizes has continued into the spring, particularly when compared to the same period in 2019. As for the four weeks ended May 22, 2021, shopping trips are up 9% compared to the same period in 2020.

Shopping data from Catalina’s Buyer Intelligence Database shows recent major buying shifts across categories as a result of virtual classrooms, Zoom dating and home workouts giving way to more face-to-face interactions. People are beginning to gather again in backyards and parks (Dixie Cups and Chinet plastic cutlery are up 36% and 39%, respectively), dine out in restaurants (leading to a decline in fresh meat and poultry sales), and return to the office and the gym.

In addition, people are showing a renewed interest in their personal appearance: Maybelline lipstick has jumped 66%, Native deodorant by 88% and Downy clothing wrinkle reducers by 48%. The same holds true for items typically associated with flirting and intimacy: Tic Tac breath fresheners are up 51%, while Durex condom sales have increased 32%.

When it comes to food, consumers are balancing their desire to dine out with convenient meals at home, with refrigerated meal starters like Giovanni Rana, up 105%. While restaurant sales grew for eight consecutive weeks through the week ended May 9, 2021, according to Black Box Intelligence, same-store sales have started to soften in several food categories. This includes double-digit dips for food staples, such as fresh meat (down 18%), fresh poultry (down 21%), dried pasta (down 20%), bulk dried rice (down 23%), canned beans (down 21%) and cooking oil (down 23%).

“There’s no doubt the pandemic continues to have a dramatic impact on shopping behavior. Being able to provide retailers, CPG marketers and agencies with insights into what people are now buying—and why—helps us collectively develop and deliver highly personalized marketing messages across multiple channels that measurably impact sales in real time,” said Marta Cyhan, CMO, Catalina.

To learn more about the ever-evolving landscape of retail after COVID-19, be sure to read “Category Management in a Post-Pandemic World” in NACS Magazine.