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How COVID-19 is impacting consumer shopping behavior

Note from the editor

As the coronavirus has taken hold across the United States this year, its impact has caused seismic and potentially long-lasting changes to how consumers eat and the way food and beverage companies get their products to them.

With restaurants, sporting events and other large social gatherings closed or canceled, consumers have spent more time at home creating their own meals, snacking, drinking coffee or making their own alcoholic drinks. A trip to the local bar for a few beers or getting coffee at Starbucks with colleagues has shifted that walk to the refrigerator or the single-serve Keurig machine on the counter at home.

Big food companies have since responded. PepsiCo, for example, created and rolled out a pair of direct-to-consumers sites for many of its popular drinks and snacks in 30 days. Online sales, especially in categories like alcohol that were once slow to embrace e-commerce, have seen their market share soar. The virus also has spurred sales in center store items that have fallen out of favor in recent years such as tuna, rice and beans.

While there is little consensus as to whether these trends will become a permanent fixture and, if they do, how big a part of the landscape they will be, there is agreement that the ongoing pandemic is changing the way consumers buy and purchase food and beverages. In this report, you'll find:

  • Mondelez's "unprecedented demand" online for snacks
  • Consumers and manufacturers rethink DTC's promise 
  • Online alcohol sales may see permanent change from pandemic 
  • As meat giants face scrutiny, small and niche producers capitalize
  • Coronavirus boosts sales for center store products. Will it last?
  • Plant-based food sales outpace growth in other categories during pandemic
  • Private label prospects brighten as recession hits cash-strapped consumers
  • Once thriving craft beer industry dealt crippling blow by coronavirus

These are just a few of the many issues impacting consumer shopping behavior during these unusual times. We hope you enjoy this deep dive into the current trends.

Christopher Doering Senior Reporter

Mondelez faces 'unprecedented demand' online for snacks during coronavirus

Glen Walter, president of North America, said the surge is especially prominent in its core snack offerings like Oreo and Ritz as shoppers gravitate toward trusted brands.

Once thriving craft beer industry dealt crippling blow by coronavirus

With brewpubs and taprooms shuttered and consumers less willing to experiment, thousands of brewers could go out of business or experience major changes to their operations.

Coronavirus is boosting sales for center store products. Will the renewed interest last?

From canned tuna to beans and rice, consumers are returning to shelves they once strayed away from. Companies and analysts say this trend could continue as shoppers face economic challenges.

As meat giants face scrutiny, small and niche producers capitalize

The four major meat companies have closed plants and warned of shortages during the pandemic, while local ones have offered a more transparent view of operations and seen business boom.

Plant-based food sales outpace growth in other categories during pandemic

Consumers and manufacturers rethink DTC's promise as pandemic alters shopping habits

PepsiCo, Mondelez and Unilever are among the companies that have deployed direct-to-consumer shipping, which offers convenience for shoppers but complicated logistics.

Online alcohol sales may see permanent rise as coronavirus alters shopping habits

Data insights firm Kantar estimates that 30% of new customers who try buying booze through e-commerce for the first time during the pandemic will remain long-term users.

Private label prospects brighten as recession hits cash-strapped consumers

Even before the pandemic, sales growth in the sector was forecast to outpace that of national brands for the fourth straight year, according to IRI.