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Grocery shoppers have a new mindset and new habits: Survey

Retailers dealing with ‘fearful customers’ in store, while more Canadians shop online
Shutterstock/Valeri Hadeev

There’s nothing routine about grocery shopping anymore. 

A new survey from Dalhousie University, in partnership with Angus Reid, found that most Canadians are either going to the grocery store with a different mindset, or are looking for alternative ways to get groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly two thirds (64%) of survey respondents said they still shop in grocery stores, but they buy more so they don’t have to go as often. About 6% of consumers ask someone else to go to the grocery store for them.

READ: How Canadian grocery is dealing with COVID-19

The pandemic is also pushing more shoppers online, with 5% of Canadians buying all their groceries online. While that may not seem like a high number, the study’s author says online traffic has tripled since the start of the pandemic.

“I think this is going to be one of COVID’s greatest legacies in the grocery industry,” says Sylvain Charlebois, scientific director, Agri-Food Analytics Lab Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University. “The industry is going virtual and will accelerate the pace.” 

READ: B.C. releases COVID-19 safety guidelines for grocery stores

When they’re in stores, shoppers are taking numerous safety precautions: 81% are now using extra hand sanitizer when grocery shopping, 30% wear a mask and 26% wear gloves. Once they get home, 42% of shoppers are wiping their groceries down with disinfectant.

Canadians are taking note of retailers’ new safety procedures as well. Ninety-five per cent noticed Plexiglass being used in food retail stores, 91% noticed arrows to show which direction consumers should take when roaming the aisles, and 90% noticed security in stores to keep the number of shoppers in check. In addition, 58% noticed cashiers wearing masks.

READ: Sobeys installs Plexiglas shields to fight spread of COVID-19

“The industry is clearly dealing with a fearful customer,” says Charlebois. “Things have changed and Canadians have noticed, and these changes are going to last for a while. Canadians have started to accept that.” 

The survey also shows that the pandemic could permanently alter Canadians food and shopping habits. Nearly half (47%) intend to cook more when the pandemic is over, with younger people (18-34) expressing the most intent (55%).

Nine per cent of Canadians intend to order food online regularly, compared to less than 2% before the pandemic; 6% intend to use food delivery apps more often, and 2% are planning to order meal kits more often after the pandemic.


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