Food-Focused Consumers: Enthusiastic, Nervous, Ready For Post-Zoom Holiday


New research from the grocery industry finds that while consumers are definitely fretting about COVID, rising prices and out-of-stock favorites, they are also looking forward to happier holidays. And they seem unfazed by recent headlines, with little change in their mood since August.

The grocery-shopping research, from the Food Marketing Institute and the Hartman Group, finds COVID concerns have remained stable, with just over half of the 1,600 respondents saying they are either “extremely” or “very” concerned about the virus, numbers that are unchanged since the August survey. About 76% of the sample have been at least partially vaccinated, and 67% say they’d consider grocery stores for future vaccine sites.

Some 60% say they consider in-person supermarket shopping to be safe, also unchanged since August. While 53% are concerned about rising food prices and 43% about supply chain disruptions interfering with their plans, those worries are also stable, as is average spending of $144 per week.



Perhaps the best news for grocers is that 76% of consumers rank their local store’s response to the pandemic very highly. And more people -- 55% -- say they count on their stores to keep people healthy, up 7 percentage points since February.

Those gains come even as trust in the government, media and insurance companies has declined.

The survey finds increased enthusiasm about the upcoming holidays, with fewer people saying they plan to limit social activities. Between 16% and 24% are cutting back on the number of guests this year, compared to between 25% and 40% last year. And 10% say they’ll celebrate the holiday virtually.

Roughly half believe the new normal is here, while 42% say the world is still in flux, and 8% believe that normal, whatever that is, will return by the end of the year.

There are shifts in shopping behaviors. With high stakes and elevated holiday expectations, about 37% plan to start shopping earlier than normal, with many planning to try new recipes if they face out-of-stocks. And 18% say they’ve begun Thanksgiving planning earlier than usual.

The survey also confirms shoppers’ growing commitment to mass merchandisers like Walmart or Target as their primary store, in a shift away from conventional grocers.

That’s especially true for Gen Z (44%) and millennials (38%). And millennials are twice as likely as other generations to see online-only options as a primary store.

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