As the saying goes, timing is everything. The 2020 International Food Information Council Food & Health Survey was conducted in April 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, that backdrop must be considered when looking at the results. Yes, consumer beliefs and actions have made a major shift. The question is, will those changes remain?
It’s not surprising that cooking at home is the biggest change for 8 in 10 Americans. Along with that, they are snacking more, washing fruits and vegetables more, and just giving more thought to food choices.
Going to the grocery store has decreased since consumers make fewer trips to the store each week. Online grocery shopping has gone up.
Food safety concerns about food have increased and more than a third of consumers avoid some foods and beverages. Keep in mind, COVID-19 has not been found to spread through food or food packaging. Consumers are more concerned about food safety when grocery shopping online.
In spite of all the challenges with COVID-19, 67% of respondents are at least somewhat confident in the overall safety of the food supply.
Over the years, consumers have changed how they acquire food. Foods purchased away-from-home have increased over purchasing food to eat at home. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) studies all food purchases to get a broad picture of consumer buying habits.
The ERS study looked beyond eating at restaurants to include sources such as airline food, hospital and nursing home food, and prison food. They also looked at food purchased through assistance programs such as food and nutrition assistance programs, meals at work locations, and meals served at government-sponsored locations. In the last two decades, shoppers have increased food expenditures from warehouse club stores and supercenters instead of traditional grocery stores.
Away from home, food purchases are increasing at fast food restaurants while full-service restaurants have remained steady.