Fresh Foods in the Era of COVID-19

Fresh Foods in the Era of COVID-19

May 13, 2020
Shari Steinbach

By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly affected consumers’ mindset when it comes to foods and beverages and according to recent IRI research, some changes could have a long- lasting impact. Their survey, focused on fresh foods, reported that 59% of shoppers are now preparing 91-100% of all meals at home and 18% said they plan to buy more fresh foods. Also, 61% of shoppers believe the crisis will last 2-4 more months and many people plan on continuing home meal preparation after the crisis has ended.1 Here are some additional survey findings and the opportunities they represent for retail dietitians:

  • E-commerce for fresh foods has posted its highest growth year over year.2 Most consumers have preferred click and collect, but online delivery for fresh has increased as well. How are you connecting your services to shoppers getting grocery pickup and delivery? This audience may appreciate some weekly recipe inspiration, tips for quick assembly meals from the deli, healthy snack ideas and to learn about any wellness resources you may have.
  • Meat sales are overperforming but the recent media regarding meat shortages may cause some purchase restrictions. Share recipes for using other ingredients to stretch meat and poultry in recipes (beans, oats, vegetables, etc.), provide proper meat storage information and offer some plant-forward meal ideas.
  • Fresh sales are predicted to keep increasing over the next year but affordability will be critical for consumers due the economy. Make sure you are providing budget-friendly tips for stocking pantries and preparing simple, nutritious meals. Provide 10 simple meal ideas with a variety of low-cost ingredients like dried/canned beans, pasta, rice, canned tomatoes, etc.
  • Healthy food attributes will be important as shoppers are interested in preventing illness and supporting their immune system. Expand communications on the nutritional benefits of fresh foods like produce with signage, social media, intercom messaging, and online ads.
  • There is a 40% overall increase in SNAP benefits and the government is favoring fresh, healthy foods. Consider how you are reaching these audiences with affordable solutions.
  • While fresh food sales are rising consumers are also stocking panties with staples. Provide strategies and tactics for meal planning and preparation that combine fresh and shelf stable items to drive total store sales. Creatively communicate recipes and ingredient tips via videos for at home meal occasions.
  • Kids are coming to the kitchen – not just for meals but to cook. Provide kid-friendly recipe ideas and guidance to adults about the kitchen tasks different age groups can perform. Offer an online kid’s cooking video on a weekly basis with a fun nutrition lesson.
  • Have you noticed the spice aisle is getting depleted? Partner with a major spice company to provide ideas on adding flavor and health benefits to recipes with a variety of herbs and spices.
  • Weight management will continue to be an issue as some consumers deal with what is being called the “COVID 20” (remember the “freshman 15”?) and the fact that swim suit season is approaching. Share eating tips, healthy snack ideas and quick recipe hacks for reducing calories.


  1. IRI COVID19 Weekly survey of primary shoppers, as of Wave 5, week ending 4/10-4/12
  2. IRI eMarket Insights Model, Total Store is an aggregate of the 204 releasable categories, excludes beer/wine/spirits, Baseline is based on L26 Weeks Ending 4/12/2020