More than half of U.S. consumers have been eating at home more often since the coronavirus outbreak, which has brought challenges in shopping and meal planning, a new survey by CPG sales and marketing firm Acosta finds.
Fifty-five percent of shoppers polled said they’ve been eating at home more frequently during the pandemic, according to Acosta’s “COVID-19: Reinventing How America Eats” study, released yesterday. The findings are based on online surveys of Acosta’s proprietary shopper community between July 8 and 15, as well as industry data and proprietary information sources, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based company said.
The findings show a sizable change in eating habits versus before the health crisis. Among respondents, 44% report eating breakfast at home daily, compared with 33% pre-COVID. Similarly, 31% are eating lunch at home every day versus 18% pre-COVID, and 33% are eating dinner at home daily versus 21% pre-COVID.
Opting to eat at home, however, has raised some issues for consumers when it comes to meal planning, Acosta’s research revealed. Forty-five percent of those surveyed cited concerns about exposure to COVID-19 when food shopping at the grocery store, while 40% said they’re challenged in having to plan different meals on a daily basis. Some respondents also found themselves lacking a food/ingredient needed to make a meal (38%), needing to improve their cooking skills (17%) and having limited to plan and prepare meals due to other household responsibilities.
And cooking isn’t for everyone. The study found that 25% of shoppers are tired of having to do more cooking, whereas 35% of consumers said they’ve discovered a new passion for cooking amid the pandemic.
“With more than half of consumers eating at home more often and some with less money to spend, there are a myriad of challenges and opportunities for retailers and manufacturers to navigate,” according to Colin Stewart, executive vice president of business intelligence at Acosta.
Even after the pandemic winds down, many U.S. consumers won’t be flocking to restaurants and other foodservice venues. Of shoppers polled by Acosta, 47% said they aim to eat breakfast out less often (18%) or not at all (29%) post-pandemic. Likewise, 33% plan to eat lunch out less often (24%) or not at all (9%), and 29% said they would eat dinner out less often (22%) or not at all (7%). Consumers cited concerns about the effects of COVID-19 and saving money as the top reasons for clamping down on eating out post-COVID.
“The implications of staying at home and reduced commutes are far-reaching and jolted channel trends,” Stewart noted. “Foodservice sales surpassed retail food and beverage sales in 2015 and were expected to continue to gain share, until the pandemic hit. Now, even the best-case scenario for foodservice will end the year in the red. Other trends, like e-commerce, have been accelerated, with online food, beverage and alcohol spend expected to increase 30% this year.”
In its “COVID-19: Reinventing How America Eats” report, Acosta estimated that restaurant/foodservice industry consumer spend will drop from just under $850 billion in 2019 to more than $600 billion in a best-case scenario for 2020 and to just over $550 billion in the event of a second COVID wave this year. Restaurant/foodservice sectors least affected under those scenarios would be quick service and fast casual, while midscale, casual and fine dining would see consumer spend plunge by 31% to 50%.
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