With a growing number of people shopping for food and groceries online, and lockdown prompting new habits, I explore why those that went back to shopping in-store, report behaviours such as eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting down on meat, dairy, alcohol and sugar. Plus, three tactics you can use to help inspire online shoppers and improve perceptions around quality and price to support healthier and more sustainable food choices.
Lockdown prompted new habits
At a time when many people were looking to reduce their social contact, we saw a big surge in numbers shopping for food and groceries online.
Over half (52%) of shoppers told us they shopped online for food and groceries more1 during lockdown. Of these, 29% did this for the first-time and 71% did this more often1.
And as restrictions began to ease, 60% of those that shopped online for food and groceries more during the first national lockdown continued shopping online1.
The latest data from ShopperVista suggests this trend is set to continue, with record numbers using online. In December, 59% of shoppers claim to have used online in the last month (compared to 42% the same time the previous year)2.
There’s significant appetite for change
With over half (57%) of consumers already changing their diets or thinking about making changes to be healthier and more sustainable3, we asked those who shop for food or groceries online about some of the ways they changed their dietary habits as restrictions eased after the first national lockdown.
Behaviours people did during the first national lockdown (23 March until end of May ‘20) and as restrictions eased (from end of May ‘20)
Source: IGD research. Base: 2,000 UK consumers, Sept-Oct ’20
Those that stopped shopping for food or groceries online as restrictions eased after the first lockdown, were more likely to report behaviours such as eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting down on meat, dairy, alcohol and sugar, than those that continued shopping for food or groceries online1.
Online shoppers welcome support to make healthier and more sustainable food choices
When exploring some of the barriers to changing diets, we uncovered three key opportunities to support people to make healthier and more sustainable choices when shopping for food and groceries online.
1. Inspire online shoppers to be more creative
In the period when restrictions eased after the first national lockdown, those that stopped shopping for food or groceries online were more likely to report trying new foods (63%), than those that continued (50%)1.
“I did my food shopping online in lockdown but I missed going to the shops, I feel more inspired there. Online shopping is frustrating and you end up ordering always the same things, it’s boring.” Male, 35-441
Recent research from ShopperVista suggests people are up for change, with record numbers (40%) of online shoppers claiming that they were not using their favourites to avoid buying the same things4.
With limited opportunities to eat out and cooking fatigue setting in for many, consider what tactics you can use to inspire shoppers with different solutions and trial new or less familiar recipes and products when shopping online.
Online meal planner: In our latest Appetite for Change research, we tested several concepts that changed the way products were presented online to inspire shoppers to continue buying ingredients to cook from scratch. This online meal planner lets online grocery shoppers browse recipes online and add the ingredients to their basket.
2. Provide reassurance on quality
A preference for buying fresh categories in-store acts as a barrier to more shoppers choosing online.
“I used home deliveries [during the first national lockdown] instead of going to the supermarket. It takes the hassle away but I prefer to walk the aisle and pick the food myself, because their perception of what’s good may be different from mine, so as lockdown went on I used home deliveries less and less.” Male, 35-441
Recent research from ShopperVista revealed 67% of online shoppers prefer to buy fresh produce in-store, compared to 31% who prefer to buy the category online5.
“I shopped online more in lockdown, I didn’t do that a lot before because I like to see the fresh produce, it’s easier to see, you know what quality looks like. I’m back in the supermarket now, it’s better for fresh produce.” Female, 25-341
With 8 in 10 (80%) people believing farm shops and stores selling food produced near to where it’s sold, offer fresher, higher quality food1, consider how you can improve perception amongst online shoppers by providing more reassurance around quality and freshness.
Online supermarket farm shop: In our latest Appetite for Change research, we tested a concept that framed vegetables as part of an online ‘farm shop’, selling locally sourced seasonal fruit and vegetable products.
3. Help online shoppers balance health and savvy shopping tactics
Online shoppers often plan ahead. But despite this, recent research from ShopperVista found that just under half (49%) of online shoppers purchase unplanned products because they are on special offer5.
“When you shop online you also buy more, you get carried away.” Female, 25-341
Evidence shows promotions are effective at influencing purchases, but they tend to be heavily skewed towards less healthy options6. As many shoppers continue with savvy shopping behaviours and perceived higher cost of healthy and sustainable eating remaining the biggest barrier to change3, focus on improving value perceptions and making it easier for online shoppers to identify and take up promotions for healthier foods online.
Online affordable meal box: In our latest Appetite for Change research, we tested a concept that helped incentivise healthier choices for online shoppers. The affordable meal box contained ingredients and easy to follow recipes to make five family meals.
1 IGD research. Base: 2,000 UK consumers, Sept-Oct ’20
2 IGD ShopperVista. Base: 1,000+ All Shoppers, Dec ‘20
3 IGD research ‘Appetite for Change – How have consumer attitudes to healthy and sustainable diets changed in the wake of COVID-19?’. Base: 1,000 UK consumers, July ’20
4 IGD ShopperVista. Base: 123 online shoppers, Jan ‘21
5 IGD ShopperVista. Base: 353 Online grocery shoppers, Nov ’20-Jan ’21
6 Department of Health and Social Care (2020) ‘Restricting promotions of products high in fat, sugar and salt by locations and by price: government response to public consultation’ (Accessed 19/3/21)