Grocery Industry News: 6 Months Into the COVID Pandemic

by Natalie Tatum | Mar 25, 2020 1:23:23 PM

There’s no way anyone could have predicted what 2020 could have in store. Much of the year has been consumed by the pandemic, which is now rounding out its six month.  The grocery industry has faced many changes, challenges, and adaptations in the past six months. Here are the top grocery industry stories by month from April to September. 

April: Coronavirus Drives Online Grocery Sales $5.3 billion in April 

This April, online grocery sales reached a new record of $5.3 billion, up from $4 billion in the previous month. Brick Meets Click conducted research with Symphony Retail AI and found that the main driver of sales was the 33.3% increase in the total number of grocery orders – 62.5 million in April vs. 46.9 million in March. 

May: Nearly 80% of U.S. Consumers Shopped Online For Groceries Since COVID-19 Outbreak 

According to a survey conducted by Inmar Intelligence, 78.7% of consumers polled reported shopping online for groceries after the COVID-19 outbreak, up 39% from before the pandemic. Additionally, 56.7% of respondents said they shop for groceries online more often now than before the pandemic. Availability played a key role in customer decision making on where tot shop. 51% of consumers said they preferred a grocery retailer that had their specific items they wanted in stock, while 39% chose a retailer based on whether they had a grocery pickup or delivery time slot available in their desired window. 

June: Weekly Grocery Shopping Down 20% Since COVID-19 Outbreak 

According to a survey from Acosta, grocery shopping on a weekly basis dropped 20% among U.S. consumers since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but many shoppers now spend more on each trip. Acosta’s research found that 37% of consumers now spend more on each grocery trip versus their pre-COVID food shopping purchases. Of those spending more on groceries, 59% of shoppers named eating at home as their primary reason, while 52% cited higher prices, and 50% said they’re simply choosing to stock up more. 

July: Price of Groceries Falls in July After Surging During Coronavirus Pandemic 

Grocery prices spiked 2.6% in April, the largest increase in more than four decades, and rose another 1% in May. In June, prices continued to climb, increasing 0.7%. The price consumers paid for grocery items fell 1.1% from June to July, according to Consumer Price Index data released by the U.S. Department of Labor. The decrease led to a decline in the price index for all food, including both groceries and food from restaurants. The cost of meat, fish, poultry, and eggs fell notably, decreasing by 2.8% from the previous month. The decrease was led by a sizable 8.2% decline in the cost of beef. Despite last month’s decrease, grocery prices still remain significantly elevated compared to last year, up 4.6% from last July, well above the target inflation rate. 

August: Grocery works say morale is at al all-time low: ‘They don’t even treat us like humans anymore’

Hailed as “heroes” at the onset of the pandemic, supermarket employees now say they are overworked, overwhelmed, and feeling expendable again. Grocery workers across the country say morale is crushingly low as the pandemic wears on with no end in sight. Overwhelmed employees are quitting mid-shirt. Those who remain say they are overworked, taking on extra hours, enforcing mask requirements and dealing with hostile customers. Most retailers have done away with hazard pay even as workers remain vulnerable to infection or worse. Employees who took sick leave at the beginning of the pandemic say they can not afford to take unpaid time off now, even if they feel unwell. 

September: How the coronavirus pandemic helped convince grocery chains with new tech 

Now six months into the pandemic, grocers are starting to adapt and plan for life in the COVID era instead of just implementing temporary fixes.The rapid shift to online grocery ordering has been labeled as the next phase of grocery shopping, but legacy grocers and retail heavyweights are both investing in technology in their brick-and-mortar stores. Grocers like Price Chopper, Wegmans, and Giant Eagle have introduced checkout-free technology in some of their stores, citing that these advancements and implementations make shoppers feel safer during their in-store experience.

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