We may be keen to forget 2020 but it’simpossible to ignore the fact that the global pandemic has altered our shopping habits and those changes appear to be here to stay. 

The third trend report for United Fresh, which was researched, written and distributed to NZ media by Village PR, has found a significant shift in consumer behaviour.

Unsurprisingly, health and well-being top the list of concerns for shoppers across the country. 

Over 20 percent of shoppers are actively seeking out immunity-boosting food and beverage options; fresh fruit and vegetables, with their natural ‘health halo’, are top of the list. The trend of the quick ‘dash and grab’ has been stopped in its tracks by Covid-19 and we’ve continued with the lockdown rules of visiting the supermarket only when we need to. In fact, research by Foodstuffs shows Kiwis are making around 50 percent fewer visits to stores each week despite our lack of community transmission. 

Online shopping has also surged in popularity. In 2019, less than 10 percent of Kiwis shopped for groceries online. That number has nowballooned to nearly 30 percent. Based on overseas examples, those numbers are set to increase even more with online grocery shopping up 25 percent in the US and 40 percent in Asia. The online trend is likely to see a reduction in the number of stores, with many repurposed as ‘dark stores’, operating as a warehouse for either click and collect grocery shoppers or home delivery services.

The resurgence of a ‘Buy NZ Made’ ethos has been one of the positive effects of the pandemic. Kiwis quickly discovered the importance of locally grown food as bags of flour disappeared off our shelves at record speeds. The unreliability of imports, growing costs and limited capacity have driven shoppers to seek out home grown alternatives. Buying local means a meaningful connection with the producers of our food, a reassuring development of trust in confusing and uncertain times. Transparency of supply is a growing trend worldwide with as many as 60 percent of shoppers seeking greater knowledge about where their food is sourced from.

As is often the case in troubling times, shoppers are turning to small indulgences with their weekly shop. The trend towards buying one or two high quality ‘treats’ looks set to be a feature of 2021.Known as ‘the lipstick effect’, in an economic downturn shoppers turn to affordable pleasures rather than more costly luxury items. Buying the best quality avocado or treating the kids to a punnet of fresh strawberries works well to boost morale, even when the purse strings are tight. With around 40 percent of Kiwi families feeling the financial effects of COVID-19, expect to see this trend continue well past 2021.