Pandemic Prompts Massive Shifts in Food Shopping and Eating Behaviors

Pandemic Prompts Massive Shifts in Food Shopping and Eating Behaviors

October 21, 2020
Al Heller

By Al Heller, Contributing Editor,

The pandemic has supermarkets relying more on retail dietitians to be their accessible, consoling, educational faces to in-store and virtual shoppers coping with stress and uncertainty.

For example:

  • Kroger’s 84.51° data showed that 51% of consumers cooked and baked more than before the pandemic, 46% snacked more throughout the day, and 40% ate comfort and indulgent foods.  In response, its dietitians launched a telenutrition service featuring unlimited video chats and personalized plans that are free during the pandemic.
  • H-E-B is sustaining affordable telemedicine with the partner MDBox app to serve Texans, the most underinsured adults and third-most underinsured children in the U.S. (WalletHub study).
  • ShopRite dietitians give free virtual chats with the Hero messaging app.

Retail dietitians have stepped lively into the public eye amid COVID disruptions.

“[With more online shopping] retail dietitians are pumping out omnichannel guidance with website updates and digital messaging for better health, virtual cooking classes, telehealth sessions, media interviews from their own home kitchens, Instagram videos and YouTube lessons, many geared towards engaging kids. They are in the community assisting with food donations and feeding assistance programs. They…ensure labels are accurate and recipes are up to date {and] are ready resources for COVID-19 issues, helping to ensure recommendations are grounded in science,” said Krystal Register, MS, RDN, LDN, Director, Health and Well-Being, FMI.

Store dietitians had to quickly pivot to become effective bridges to households of diverse dietary needs, health conditions and living and sheltering arrangements – at precisely the time consumers count on supermarkets most because they’re cooking, snacking and eating meals at home more than ever.

RDBA’s Samplefest: Consumer Shopping Behavior Forever Changed describes dietitians’ front-line efforts to be the steady hands shoppers need against COVID’s roiling of food purchasing and eating behaviors.  Data detail the extent of these reset relationships with foods, stores and websites – and plenty of executable ideas are launch points for new dietitian initiatives.

Insights and ideas share include:

Insights:  49% of consumers said they’re buying more groceries online or started to buy groceries online due to the coronavirus (Source: Coresight Research, as appeared in Supermarket News, May 11, 2020).  And 84% of consumers said they’re very (35%) or somewhat (49%) likely to continue to buy groceries online even after restrictions are lifted (Source: IRI, as cited by IDDBA President and CEO Mike Eardley in Winsight Grocery Business, June 15, 2020).

Ideas: Retail dietitians can elevate e-commerce BOPIS (Buy Online, Pickup In Store) growth and customer loyalty through nutritional guidance.  Take a cue from Coborn’s whose dietitians drive banner ads focused on dietitian-approved options and tie in vendor partners.  Create video or short webinar on how to find foods on your e-commerce site that meet special dietary needs.  Create shopping lists of pantry staples by health condition; promote these on social media and the store website, linking to e-commerce.  Leverage today’s “unboxing” trend – offer RD-curated boxes of your favorite healthy options in e-commerce platforms.

Other ideas to capitalize on 2020’s fewer but larger shopping trips, the popularity and proven effectiveness of telehealth, Americans’ determination to eat healthier, lose weight, build up their immune systems, and get back in shape populate the Samplefest document.