For nearly 30 years, Kantar has been providing insight into the grocery industry, not to mention many other aspects of consumer and shopper behaviour.

With over 30,000 employees working in 100 countries, the company has proved invaluable in supplying research into the numerous product categories that make up the grocery market, helping anyone with an interest in the industry to keep up with the latest trends.

Charlotte Scott, Kantar’s Consumer Insight Director, spoke to Grocery Trader about the huge growth of the grocery market during lockdown and what lies ahead for the industry.

What does your job as Consumer Insight Director involve?

It’s quite varied. I work with a team which supports retailer colleagues, helping them understand what is happening across grocery. That includes category management and broader strategy projects.

Take-home grocery sales grew by 14.3% in the 12 weeks to 17 May, the fastest rate since 1994. To what do you attribute this growth?

It is very significant growth. That 12 week period includes the pre-lockdown rush plus eight weeks of lockdown. Out of home spending disappeared. All the spending has been for in-home consumption, as people have had more mouths to feed at home.

Which categories have grown the most?

Most categories have been doing well. Alcohol has done the best as all out of home drinking occasions have become in-home. The hot weather has fuelled sales of alcohol, ice cream and BBQ meat. Also home baking has been doing well as a greater proportion of people have had more time to bake.

Which categories are struggling, and why?

Personal care has not been doing so well as people have not gone out. Oral care and bathroom toiletries have not done too well, for the same reason. Suncream has not done well because people are not going on holiday. Ready meals have been growing much slower than the average market rate as people have had more time to cook.

How are online grocery sales performing and what is driving growth?

Online grocery sales have been in strong growth, up 45% in 12 weeks. Online accounts for 9.4% of all grocery spend. Shoppers you wouldn’t normally associate with online, namely older shoppers, have been buying into the category.

Have shopping patterns begun to change following the easing of lockdown restrictions on 11 May?

It’s tricky to say. We will know when the next set of data is released. We have started to see a shift back from very large shopping trolleys. The frequency of shopping trips is slightly increasing after the initial trend of people doing one very big infrequent shopping trip. Daily data across broader retailers like IKEA and B&Q has revealed a massive sales spike as they have opened their doors again.

What will a less restrictive lockdown mean for supermarket sales over the next few months?

Again, it is challenging to say. We are not completely clear what will happen.

If we assume schools will open, we would expect behaviour to return to normal. That will not happen straight away. Until work situations go back to normal there will continue to be an impact on shopping patterns.

Will some shopping habits be permanently altered by Covid-19?

The shopping habit most likely to be permanently altered by Covid-19 is online shopping. The growth of online shopping before the lockdown was through people shopping online more often. Because of the lockdown more people have done it. Some of those people will be happy to continue to shop online post-lockdown so there will be sustained growth.

How much did the VE Day Bank Holiday grow sales? Did the supermarkets maximise the opportunity?

We saw a spike on Thursday 7th May, the day before the bank holiday. That day was the biggest shopping day of the month, with 480m shopping trips. Hot weather categories like ice cream and alcohol did particularly well as people made the most of the hot weather.

What do you anticipate will be the next big sales spike?

We are not completely sure what will happen. We would expect there to be less opportunities for retailers as there are not the same sporting events this year, which would normally be an opportunity for retailers. We still expect a Christmas sales spike. Overall, we expect grocery retail to be in double digit growth for the whole of 2020.

Which of the major multiple supermarkets are performing the most strongly and which have experienced a more challenging time in recent months?

Growth is largely driven by channel. Online and convenience retailers have performed strongly, particularly Ocado and Co-op. Iceland has done well as shoppers buy products they want to keep longer. Some of the larger supermarket outlets have struggled, as people don’t want to travel far. Convenience outlets are nearer and easier for shoppers to access

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