Heightened consumer interest in at-home eating set to continue, FMI report finds

Dive Brief:

  • Consumers are placing growing importance on at-home eating, with 41% of participants in a survey conducted by The Food Industry Association (FMI) indicating they intend to prepare more meals at home going forward than they did before the onset of the pandemic, according to data the organization released last week.
  • Forty-nine percent of grocery shoppers who participated in FMI’s 2021 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends survey are putting more emphasis on selecting nutritious foods now than prior to the public health crisis.
  • The findings from FMI come as grocers contend with declining sales after the surge in business they saw because of the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

Dive Insight:

While the lasting impact the pandemic has had on grocery-shopping habits may take some time to become clear, FMI research suggests at least some of the shifts in how consumers relate to food consumption are here to stay.

Among the key findings of the research, which FMI wrapped into its “2021 Power of Health and Well-being” report, is that shoppers are placing more emphasis on eating with family members than they did before. The survey found that 34% of consumers consider eating with their family extremely important, a figure that is six percentage points higher than it was a year ago. Just 13% of respondents said eating with family members is not important to them.

Nearly two-thirds of survey participants said responsibility for ensuring the foods they buy in grocery stores are nutritious rests on “myself as an individual,” while 42% said the Food and Drug Administration bears that responsibility and 38% said it belongs to the USDA. Just under a third of consumers said grocery stores bear responsibility for providing them with nutritious foods.

Almost half of respondents said they are cooking now more than before the pandemic, with 44% liking or loving doing so. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they have become more skilled at cooking healthy meals during the course of the crisis, with 25% saying they are now better at preparing fresh foods like produce and a fifth feeling that way about meat and poultry.

In a potentially worrisome sign for food retailers, just 45% of survey respondents said they trust “food stores in general” to help them stay healthy, and only 35% of survey participants have that opinion about online-centric grocers. Those figures are well below the 65% of people who look to doctors to guide them when deciding what foods to buy.

Three-quarters of survey participants said they are using online tools to discern details about products when making e-commerce purchases.

While many people say they are paying closer attention than in the past to the nutritional value of foods they buy, 58% of survey participants still said they could be somewhat or a lot healthier. Still, the percentage of survey respondents who believe their eating habits are “healthy enough” or “as healthy as possible” has risen by 14 percentage points over the past year, to 41%.

The survey also found the proportion of consumers who eat meat less often than they used to has nearly doubled over the past two years, rising from 10% in 2019 to 19% in 2021, a change that comes against a backdrop of the rising popularity of plant-based products.

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