How the Pandemic Made Lasting Changes to Grocery Stores

NBC 7 Responds looks at which changes are here to stay for grocery stores

NBC Universal, Inc.

The coronavirus pandemic affected all types of businesses. Grocery stores stayed open the entire time, but it still changed how they function.

"The grocery store goes through lots of change in a regular year, not only in a pandemic year," said Leslie Sarasin, President of FMI, the Food Industry Association. "We changed on a dime during the pandemic."

FMI asked people how their behavior changed during the pandemic. As many restaurants closed, people started eating at home more.

"We're certainly cooking at home more," Sarasin said. "Most of us have developed a much deeper relationship with our kitchens than we had previously."

Even more, than a year after the pandemic began, FMI said 58% of people say they are eating at home more than before the pandemic. Almost half of the respondents said they are also cooking and preparing their own meals.

The way we shop for groceries has also changed. Sarasin says people are making fewer visits to the store but buying more at once. People are also using more technology.

"We're definitely making use of the online shopping opportunities in ways we had not previously," Sarasin said. "This online shopping is not going away."

That can involve ordering delivery of groceries, or having them ready for pickup. FMI found that millennials and Gen Z-ers, born after 1996, were the most likely to use these options.

"Those are the futures of our shoppers and they will continue to shop online," Sarasin said.

FMI found people also changed what they were buying. Sarasin said people thought more about how the meals they were eating.

"I think we will continue to emphasize health and wellbeing in our shopping," Sarasin said. "Especially in the meals we prepare for our families."

As people are venturing out more and more to businesses, Sarasin says grocery stores are ready to change again.

"I think the stores that will be the most successful are the ones that provide that unique experience, but also that convenience factor," Sarasin said. "As our customer's needs change and what they're looking for changes, we change with them."

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