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Are attitudes toward masks changing? (Survey)

Field Agent asks Canadians what role PPE and online shopping have on their future trips to the grocery store
Middle age man buying food in grocery store, wearing medical mask
Shutterstock/Anna Nahabed

As vaccinations go up and COVID cases go down across the country, it seems inevitable that at least some shoppers’ attitudes about masking will also change.

Canadian research firm Field Agent recently surveyed 1,536 Canadians about how habits and practices adopted during COVID could potentially change as Canada undergoes a “great reopening.”

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) said they would continue wearing a mask while grocery shopping even after local mandates are lifted.

“It was a lot higher than I expected,” said Jeff Doucette, general manager for Field Agent Canada told Canadian Grocer. “I had the sense that maybe once the mandates went away, people would kind of throw their masks up in the air and it'd be a bit of a celebration. But it seems like two-thirds of people are going to keep those masks on.”

Any shopper trepidation about life after COVID will have to be taken into account for grocers as various rules and restrictions ease. It’s likely many grocers will want to at least recommend shoppers wear masks, for example, in which case it’ll be difficult not to require staff to wear masks for a while yet, said Doucette. Similarly, it’ll be quite some time before things like olive bars, fresh bun bins and other bulk food options return, he said. “If they ever do.”

Other findings from the survey about consumer habits relating to dining out, use of quick service restaurants and food delivery point to other COVID habits that could remain for a while. For example, if masking requirements are lifted, 40% said they would continue to wear a mask at quick service restaurants, and 28% said they would only use drive-thru.

“We were also wondering whether some of the habits picked up during the pandemic such as using more drive-thrus, ordering groceries online and using food delivery services will stick with Canadian consumers even though the great reopening now seems to be underway.”

The survey also more evidence that COVID has changed online grocery shopping forever:

  • 53% of respondents ordered groceries online or for pickup during the pandemic;
  • 16% said they would order groceries online more often in the future;
  • 44% said they would order groceries online the same as now; and
  • 40% said they would order groceries online less often in the future.

“We had a high level of people who said that they've used online groceries for either pickup or delivery,” said Doucette. “But a lot of them will continue to use it, whether they use it as religiously or not, is a little bit different. But I bet that step change in online grocery is here to stay. We’re not going back to online grocery being 3% or 4% of the total.”

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