Canadian Manufacturing

Over a fifth of Canadians have bought more groceries online due to COVID-19

Physical grocery stores have a big challenge to encourage consumers to come back into stores and spend time inside

August 20, 2020  by CM Staff

PHOTO: Loblaw Companies Ltd.

TORONTO — The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated Canadian usage of e-commerce with online grocery being one of the main benefactors. The latest research from Mintel, a market intelligence agency, reveals that by mid-April, almost four in 10 (37%) Canadians were shopping more online, with 22% of Canadians specifically noting they were buying more groceries online due to COVID-19, including 10% of seniors (those aged 65+).

Physical grocery stores have a big challenge to encourage consumers to come back into stores and spend time inside. Mintel’s research shows that as of mid-April, 70% of Canadian shoppers were making less frequent trips to the grocery store than usual and in the middle of July, 71%** were limiting the time they spent in the store. Consumers were also doing what they could to protect themselves: 67% said they were taking extra precautions when shopping in stores, e.g. wiping down their carts, keeping their distance from other shoppers. These protective behaviours are continuing, at the end of July, half (50%) of Canadians continue to be worried about the risk of being exposed to the virus, driving two-thirds (64%) of consumers to limit the time they spend in-stores.

“The current uncertainty surrounding the virus remains unhelpful to the grocery shopping experience as much of it tends to be tactile, using touch and smell to assess the freshness of produce or sampling,”
Carol Wong-Li, Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure said in a prepared statement. “Grocery retailers will need to replace the tactile experiences with more visual incentives to gain people’s interests, which will open up opportunities to enhance the in-store shopping experience in a safe way.”

The essential nature of food at home has not been lost, as of the beginning of May, almost half (48%) of consumers said they had made groceries a higher spending priority at the height of the pandemic, while over a quarter (28%) agreed that they were less-budget conscious than usual when it came to buying groceries. Shelf-stable products became a star performer, with 43% of Canadians saying they were buying more groceries that would stay fresh for longer like frozen, canned and boxed food.

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“An area that was once stigmatized for being less healthy, the centre of the store where shelf-stable items tend to be, has been revitalized due to the uncertainty associated with the pandemic. Preventative measures put in place, like mandatory restaurant closings, led Canadians to cook more from home — providing a boost to shelf-stable products,” continued Wong-Li.