Shopper Concerns, Purchases of Comfort Foods Escalate

Acosta’s latest COVID-19 survey finds pantry and paper product purchases tapering
Photograph: Shutterstock

Comfort foods have moved into the driver’s seat of shoppers’ go-to escape route as they make fewer trips to the store in tandem with mounting concerns over the ongoing pandemic, according to Acosta’s third round of pandemic purchase behavior research probing continuing shifting consumer shopping habits.

“While we’re still seeing new trends form week to week, like the prioritization of comfort foods over pantry and paper products, we’re also seeing trends solidify with e-commerce continuing to surge and in-store trips continuing to decline due to growing concern,” said Darian Pickett, CEO of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta.

The latest round of research from the full-service CPG sales and marketing agency shows that shopper concern continues to intensify as weeks go by, especially among older households and those in the hardest-hit areas, according to Pickett, who said in Acosta’s first shopper survey from March 6-12, “concern levels averaged 6.9, and now it’s risen to 8.2 out of 10. That said, we’re optimistic these concerns will reverse with more than half of shoppers surveyed noting they expect their shopping habits to return to ‘normal’ once the pandemic is over.”

Acosta’s third COVID-19 research report, gathered via online surveys conducted between April 3-7, provides insight into both current and future consumer behavior, as well as recommendations for retailers, including:

Previewing Post-Pandemic Life

  • 68% of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely that their grocery habits will return to normal once the pandemic is over.
  • 58% of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely they will return to the same eating-out routines they had before.
  • 56% of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely that they will eat at home more than they used to for a while.
  • 31% of shoppers said it’s extremely or very likely they will do more online grocery pickup or delivery than they did before.

Recommendations for Retailers

  • Focus on people first, namely shoppers and staff, and ensure enhanced safety by enabling no-touch transactions, such as self-checkout and Apple Pay.
  • Recognize and respond to changing shopper attitudes and behaviors by offering assorted comfort foods and snacks in addition to essentials.
  • Ensure the retail digital shelf and e-commerce strategies are prepared for the accelerated shift to online grocery demand.
  • With staying at home likely remaining strong in the months post-COVID, provide convenient shopper "solutions" centered on meals and self-care.
  • Accommodate lower-income shoppers who are getting relief to buy food via stimulus checks; they may be looking to trade down and leverage promotions.

Acosta’s research was gathered via online surveys using the company’s proprietary shopper community from April 3-7. The report also includes comparison data from online surveys conducted March 6-12 and March 20-29.


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