Waitrose Food and Drink Report unveils unique trends among shoppers due to COVID

Waitrose Food and Drink Report unveils unique trends among shoppers

Produce Business reports

    In its annual Food & Drink Report 2021, UK retailer Waitrose highlighted several groundbreaking trends forced by the COVID-19 pandemic that have changed everyday habits around consumption.

    Some of the most notable – that 25% of shoppers (mainly under 35) newly turned to online for their groceries, that 60% of customers say they will stick to those digital platforms and that 74% say cooking at home provides a needed break for remote workers. 

    For those in the produce sector, some emerging statistics are heartening: More than 40% of consumers say they would consider a service that delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to their doors. Some 60% say they have been trying to stay healthy during the pandemic. And Waitrose notes that one of its most popular web pages is on the Mediterranean Diet, which is up more than 630%.

    “Our daily rituals, our attitudes towards supermarkets and the way we shop have been fundamentally reshaped by the pandemic,” says James Bailey, Executive Director of Waitrose. “These changes are here to stay. The ‘new normal’ that we all spoke about back in the spring isn’t new anymore. It’s just normal.”

    And in that new normal, customers are saying they value food more than ever, with 70% saying they have been moved by the level of support from supermarket workers. They also half that say their “spending habits have changed for good, with more than half say they are relieved at not having to go out as much to eat.

    The randomized research study was done of 2,000 people across the UK and also includes insight from the company’s experts, as well as sales data from both in-store and online purchases.

    COVID-19 has led to one interesting dynamic: despite the overall success of supermarkets throughout, people in the study say they are shopping less than they had. Prior to the pandemic, 51% say they got groceries two or three times per week, while 35% said they shopped once per week. That trend has nearly reversed, with 47% now saying they shop once per week and 35% two or three times per week. Daily shopping also decreased from 7% to 4%.

    “Many people are discovering the benefits of the weekly shop again,” Jane Orchard, Waitrose manager for store innovation said in the report. “While during lockdown we tried to minimise trips to a shop, many have found benefits of this more thoughtful approach to planning food – such as cutting waste or saving money – meaning the habit may stick.”

    As for the lean to online, Waitrose reports that its Rapid service (which offers two-hour delivery) has grown by five times year-over-year and it says that nearly 40% of shoppers have been taking advantage of delivery services such as Deliveroo.

    Almost half of customers said they are not using cash, a steep increase from the 22% were doing so before COVID-19. They are both concerned about the economy (77%) and are more conscious of their spending habits (61%) than prior to COVID-19.

    Waitrose noted the “deep appreciation” consumers have now for supermarkets, which have been incredibly nimble during the crisis. Nearly 60% who live in Britain say their stores have been more important in their lives than pre-pandemic. That number spikes to 70% for those in Northern Island and the North East. 

    What would they like to see in the future: 

    • 68% said they’d like to see the UK government invest in agriculural innovation
    • 33% want supermarkets to be involve in helping reduce deforestation
    • 75% want suppliers to set excess aside excess food to help those struggling in poverty
    • 60% say they want supermarkets to continue to strive toward net zero carbon commitments.


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