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United Fresh Mid-Year Trend Report:

Has COVID-19 changed our shopping habits forever?

Grocery shopping trends over the past few years have focused on the latest’ superfood’ or diet and lifestyle craze, but this year research commissioned by United Fresh shows the significant impact that COVID-19 is having in supermarket aisles around Aotearoa.

Empty shelves, food shortages, masks, and socially distanced queues make the weekly shop seem like something from a sci-fi film compared to the ‘old normal’ before the pandemic, and the Nielsen IQ study completed in June this year showed just how far we have shifted from the carefree days before COVID.

Online is easier
In 2019, less than 10 percent of Kiwis shopped for their groceries online. Over the last year to June 2021, 34 percent of New Zealand households shopped for groceries online, with supermarkets seeing a 44 percent increase in online sales. Almost three-quarters of this growth has come from shoppers new to the online experience.

Shoppers keen to avoid the pandemic-related stress of shopping in person have embraced the opportunity to shop from their homes. The research found the average Kiwi household shops online 11 times a year, spending a total of $1800 per year with an average of $162 per shop.

Shopping with the senses
While we’ve converted quickly to online shopping, the research shows New Zealanders still prefer to shop in person for our 5+ A Day; for every 10 online purchases of fresh produce, there are 77 made in-store. Despite this gap, online fruit and vegetable sales are still the fastest-growing food category, and shoppers spend over 40 percent more on their fruit and vegetables when they’re buying online rather than in-store.

Although it seems counter-intuitive to the COVID message of touching as little as possible and staying masked-up, the ability to use the senses to select items of produce remains important for shoppers.

Buy more, shop less
In the face of the strange new shopping experience, New Zealanders continue to shop less frequently and spend more with each shop. Comparing the second quarter of 2021 to the two-year rolling average, shoppers visited the supermarket six percent less often and spent six percent more with each shop.

The average value of a shopper’s trip to the supermarket is higher when they are purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables. Immunity-boosting fruit and vegetables are an important item on the shopping list, with over half of all trips to the grocery store contain at least one fruit and vegetable item.

Fresh produce also accounts for a big part of the shopping budget, with the average spend of a shopping trip totaling two and a half times higher when fresh fruit and vegetables are in the basket, compared to when they are not.

Own brands gaining ground
As newly financially constrained shoppers look to save money during shopping, supermarkets’ own brands continue to increase in popularity. The June survey found 18 percent of shoppers were choosing to buy more own brand products. Around 83 percent of shoppers surveyed believed supermarkets’ own brands are just as good or better than branded goods, while 70 percent believed they were cheaper.

Click here for the full report

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