In-person grocery shopping remained surprisingly resilient throughout the pandemic, indicating that online grocery sales aren’t likely to undermine them anytime soon, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Illinois surveyed consumers in September and December 2020 and March 2021, a period during which COVID vaccines started to appear and the country was anticipating the end of the pandemic. They found that in-person food shopping remained the most popular option, with more than 90% of respondents reporting that they did it consistently during the pandemic.
“People like looking at the meat, they like looking at the produce, they like seeing what’s in season,” said Melissa Ocepek, a professor of information technology at Illinois. “Those are things we aren’t very good at replicating online.”
The survey looked at food-purchasing behavior that minimized person-to-person contact, such as delivery, takeout or curbside pickup. It found that these peaked in December 2020, when the first vaccines were just starting to become available. It also noted that 80% of full-service restaurant developed curbside pickup options.
Researchers plan to dig further into shopping patterns, looking at things like how many consumers visit more than one store and what they are buying online vs. in-person.