Market Health

COVID-19 Is Changing How Americans Eat

COVID-19 is changing the way Americans eat.

Before the pandemic, Americans spent more of their food budgets on away-from-home dining than on food retail.

(Food retail comprises all non-restaurant food purchased at a location and consumed off premises, such as food from grocery stores and convenience stores.)

In 2018, U.S. consumers spent $931 billion on away-from-home dining. And 73% of that went to restaurants. That was up almost 30% from the decade before.

But quarantine lockdowns have shifted that trend. As you can see below, more than 40% of shoppers say they are cooking more meals at home than they were pre-pandemic.

Changes to Eating Habits During COVID

In March, “monthly revenue at food retail jumped by more than 25% compared to February, collapsing more than eight years of dollar growth,” according to the Food Marketing Institute. “As of April, it has remained more than 10% higher than pre-pandemic levels.”

And not only does the pandemic have consumers buying more from grocery stores, but these shoppers are spending money on different items too.

Cooking Priorities With COVID

Consumers are purchasing more fresh produce and pantry staples, like rice and pasta, which suggests people are stocking up and cooking more at home.

And instead of just shopping at the perimeter of the store, where produce, meat and dairy are located, shoppers have been buying from the middle aisles as well. This suggests they are being more adventurous with the ingredients they buy.

But spending more on groceries isn’t the only trend that has shifted.

More consumers now want to limit trips to the grocery store to minimize the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, online grocery shopping has risen in popularity.

According to a poll conducted by Coresight Research, 49% of shoppers either are buying more groceries online or have started to buy groceries online due to the pandemic.

So keep an eye on companies that are rising to the challenge, like Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), BJ’s Wholesale Club (NYSE: BJ), Walmart (NYSE: WMT) and Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN).

The ease of online shopping and discovery of new “family favorite” recipes will ensure this trend won’t be as quick to depart as it was to arrive.

Good investing,


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