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By the numbers: Looking at sales trends, consumer behaviors during COVID

One year into the pandemic, data show how grocery shopping has changed — and what that means for retailers

After a year of record-setting sales in the grocery industry due to the pandemic — including periods of stock-up shopping, the increase in meals at home and the explosion of safe and convenient online services and curbside pickup/delivery — retailers are anticipating those once-in-a-lifetime numbers to normalize somewhat in 2021. The rollout of vaccines and the reopening of many businesses and a return to indoor dining will have an impact on grocery sales this year, although they should remain elevated for much of this year.

Just how unprecedented was the impact of COVID on the grocery industry? From online sales to consumer spending to shopping behavior shifts and category growth (toilet paper, anyone?), research reports and data from the past 12 months show an industry experiencing a sea change. Here are just some of the highlights:

  • U.S. online grocery sales reached a new peak of $9.3 billion in January 2021, surpassing the previous high of $8.8 billion in June 2020.
  • Year-over-year CPG spending in 2020 gained by double digits in every month except January.
  • Nearly two-thirds of consumers reported switching purchase loyalty to less-expensive brands since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Sales of meat increased an unprecedented 34.6% during the pandemic, while frozen food sales rose 21% over the previous year.
  • More than half of grocery retailers reported seeing center store sales increases of 10% or more during COVID.
  • 85% of consumers said they aim to eat family meals at home more often or the same amount as they did before the pandemic when things return to a “new normal.”

Learn more about how COVID changed the landscape of grocery retail in this gallery of sales trends and shopping data.

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