New research from YouGov’s ‘International FMCG report 2021: Consumer goods in a Crisis’ provides a high-level analysis of consumers’ attitudes to fast moving goods across 17 global markets. The white paper is based on more than 18,000 interviews and explores how the COVID-19 crisis has affected the FMCG/CPG sector worldwide across a range of categories.
The research finds that a plurality of consumers in every market in this study have changed their shopping habits in response to the pandemic, while more than half of consumers in 11 markets say they’ve altered their behaviours. In the UK, six in ten Britons say they’ve switched up their food shopping routine (60%).
During the pandemic, Britons preferred to shop nearby or at larger stores. YouGov data indicates more than three in ten bought their groceries or household goods at a convenience store or corner shop (31%) while eight in ten used a supermarket (82%).
Use of local farms, markets, butchers and bakeries decreased suggesting a decline in preference for food purchased from local sources. The proportion of those who used local farms and markets fell by 4-percentage-points between 2019 and 2020, while shopping at butchers and bakeries fell by 5-percentage-points.
While consumers haven’t shied away from using supermarkets during the pandemic, ‘click and collect’ and online delivery has become more popular. Almost two fifths of Britons (38%) say that they plan to make more use of these options in future, a trend which can be seen around the world and particularly in India (67%), China (64%) and Indonesia (63%). However, Britons are more likely to have recently used online delivery (34%) rather than ‘click and collect’ (8%).
In Britain there is evidence to suggest a slight uptick in the proportion of people planning their shopping trips to make fewer trips to the supermarket as advised by the government. The proportion of those who did their grocery shopping two to three times a week declined from 34% in 2019 to 27% in 2020, while the proportion who shopped once a week increased from 26% to 33%.
Changes in consumer purchase behaviour throughout the COVID-19 pandemic varies across different FMCG categories. A quarter of Britons increased their consumption of cupboard products such as pasta, rice and tinned vegetables (23% net), a fifth bought more frozen foods (20% net), and three in ten bought more cleaning products (31%), with a significant minority saying they stockpiled goods (30%).
On the other hand, almost three in ten say their consumption of cosmetic products such as make-up and hair gel decreased (28%). While toiletries purchases at large supermarkets remained stable (seeing just a 3% decline) the proportion shopping at pharmacy chains declined by 21-percentage-points. Seven in ten said they were buying less toiletries as they weren’t going out as much (69%) so were using their products up more slowly (50%).
Much has been said about locked-down Britons consuming more alcohol throughout the pandemic, as all options for entertainment and socialising disappeared. While a quarter said their alcohol consumption increased (24%), more than a third said that their intake remained the same (36%) and a sixth decreased their intake (16% – higher than the global average of 14%).
Of those who increased their intake, 95% bought alcohol from a supermarket with 57% buying alcohol once a week or more. Over half consumed this alcohol with a partner or spouse (55%), a third bought alcohol regularly anyway (36%) and a quarter drank alone (24%).
After the crisis, almost half of British consumers (49%) say that they want to buy more sustainable products, while six in ten will make more effort to support local businesses (61%). While some trends seen are likely to recover after the pandemic, such as people buying more toiletries once they have places to go and get ready for, it remains to be seen whether other trends like online shopping and stockpiling are here to stay.
Commenting on the research, Kai Virtanen, Director – Head of Consumer Sector at YouGov, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created both challenges and opportunities within the FMCG sector. It hasn’t had a one-size-fits-all impact on shopping behaviour and there are very real differences between different categories and markets. While British consumers have increased their consumption of dry cupboard goods, frozen foods and cleaning products, consumption of cosmetics and toiletries have decreased. Similarly, there have been decreases in consumers’ use of local speciality food sources with a preference for supermarkets and corner shops, with consumers choosing to shop less frequently.
“Despite a number of changes in Britons’ shopping behaviour throughout the past year, there are signs that not all of these changes will remain. While consumers have purchased food less from local sources during lockdown, most likely due to limited accessibility as places were closed, the majority intend to make more effort to support local businesses after the pandemic. Whether these changes will be long-lasting or short-term remains to be seen but, as we enter the second year of the crisis, understanding consumer sentiment will be for keeping FMCG players on the front foot.”