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COVID-19: What consumers are doing with extra groceries



COVID-19: What consumers are doing with extra groceries

Forecasting demand in these uncertain times requires an understanding of the three key moments of decision making. What we buy, how much we store and our rate of consumption.  Giles Quick, our consumption expert, uncovers why.

£2bn additional take-home spend

The out of home market is almost entirely shuttered, meaning in-home meals are replacing our workplace canteens, coffee shop sandwiches and Greggs plant-based sausage rolls.  We've all been stuck for 45 minutes two metres behind someone in an interminable supermarket queue looking to stock up for these additional meals at home. The shelves are still bare in places, and the temptation is to pick up products you never knew you needed. March 2020 saw an extra £2 billion of grocery purchases, resulting in 24% sales growth and almost one extra store visited each week in the search for toilet paper or hand sanitiser.

Top of the sales growth list are frozen and canned goods. Low down the list, and behind the overall growth in the market are fresh foods and snack categories; biscuits, salty snacks, confectionery and soft drinks. 

Does consumption match spend?

A question I'm often asked now is “what is happening to all this extra purchasing?” and “has consumption demand changed?”

Consumption of canned food is growing but currently slower than the overall rate of in-home eating. In week one of lockdown we did not consume our usual level of canned foods, and over the first two weeks consumption of dry pasta was flat.

Our cupboards are therefore now substantially fuller of some stock foods - as perhaps consumers are preparing for a prolonged lockdown period. So, we have simply brought forward this purchasing, and if the current consumption rates continue then future purchases will be delayed. 

"The chocolate effect"

There are some cases where current purchasing is translating directly into consumption. Snacking and consequently snacking categories are on the rise, and growing strongly. Historically in times of economic uncertainty and low consumer confidence, snacking grows - sometimes called “the chocolate effect”. Another example is home-baking which is in strong sales growth. Consumers are no longer time poor, so bread and cake baking is on the rise.

What is clear is that consumption behaviour has and will change rapidly, and that it has never been more important to track behaviour in both spending and consumption closely. Forecasting demand requires analysis of the three key moments of decision making; purchasing, storing at home, and consuming. Retailers and manufacturers which learn and adopt the new rules will be the winners in the new fast-changing environment.

From April 2020 Kantar's usage insights will be available on a weekly basis to give manufacturers and retailers fast-turnaround data to inform decisions in these ever-changing times. If you’d like to find out more, contact us.

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Giles Quick

Director, Usage


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