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03/19/2021

Has COVID forever changed our relationship with food?

Nourish Food Marketing’s Jo-Ann McArthur discusses the consumer behaviours that could last post pandemic

Looking back over the last year, it's easy to identify how the pandemic has contributed to a shift in purchasing patterns, food preparation and dietary habits. But how many of these new behaviours will last post pandemic?

It's a question Jo-Ann McArthur, president and chief strategist at Nourish Food Marketing, explored during a recent webinar hosted by Canadian Grocer.

“Our food system has never seen such a profound disruption as what we’ve seen over the past year," said McArthur. "We’ve established new habits, a new way of seeing the world, frankly. What will be the lasting change we see in terms of food?”

McArthur said we're headed for a "K-shaped" economic recovery made up of two consumer groups: those who remained employed and relatively unscathed by the pandemic and those who are suffering financially.

The pandemic has changed the way consumers spend time and money. Consumers with discretionary income enhanced their at-home food experiences during the pandemic as a way of dealing with boredom and anxiety, said McArthur.

"We’ve been treating ourselves to what I call splurge experiences," she said. "We’ve traded up in the grocery store to prime rib because it’s more accessible than fine dining."

Canadians with less discretionary income will look to save money where they can, which for some will mark a return to discount grocery, said McArthur.

"While we saw conventional store formats grow faster than discount during the pandemic, because consumers were really looking for that one-stop shop ... We expect that to shift back to discount a little but more once things open up again," she said.

Though share of stomach may shift back to foodservice as restaurants and offices start to reopen, the good news is Canadians have rediscovered the joy of mealtime during the pandemic, with 85% of consumers planning to eat family meals more often or the same amount post pandemic.

And what consumers are seeking when it comes to food is healthy, local and easy to prepare options. But there's more! If you weren't able to tune into the webinar, now's your chance. It's available here on demand.