‘Dark Stores’, More Oranges And Less Choice

When the pandemic hit, food trends changed; more people headed online to shop, either to choose a delivery slot (if one was available) or they chose click and collect services. More people bought larger quantities of alcohol (boxed wine sales surged) and frozen foods flew off the shelves, even in France, the home of haute cuisine.

More people began baking than ever before–there were reports of spikes in yeast sales in the U.S. and huge demand for artisanal flour in the U.K., which local mills couldn’t meet.

These trends look set to continue for the time being. Frozen foods are still king–in the U.S., frozen food sales spiked 93% in March but even in August, sales are up by 18% on 2019 figures. The same is true for dried beans, which spiked in the early months but are still selling strong and normally don’t sell at all in summer.

Many of these trends have now changed the way supermarkets operate; they have had to respond rapidly to consumer demands.

The emergence of ‘dark stores’

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that most retailers in the state of Victoria had changed procedures, so that they could offer a drive through or click and collect service.

The same is true in the U.S., where CNBC reported that e-commerce sales had soared. Kantar, the consulting company, is predicting the trend will continue–40% of consumers said they had significantly shifted sales online, rising to 48% for millennial households or families with young children.

Supermarket News reported on the emergence of ‘dark stores’–stores set up specifically for collection services, where customers don’t ever enter–Whole Foods Market recently opened one in Brooklyn.

For the second quarter to June 30, online sales for Amazon/Whole Foods tripled, leading the company to boost its grocery delivery capacity by 160%. It has tripled its number of grocery pickup sites.

A growth in healthier foods, especially oranges

Unsurprisingly, people are eating healthier and consultancy Kantar believes these healthier behaviours will continue post-pandemic, based upon research it carried out, saying, “increased hygiene, healthier eating, spending time with the family and personal development (habits) are most likely to be maintained.”

The New York Times reported that the number one outlier in grocery sales is oranges–sales were growing before the pandemic based upon the growing trend of healthy eating but sales have shot up since Covid-19. And it makes sense; they’re an easy snack, obviously healthy, last longer than other fruit and offer obvious immunity advantages.

In May, grocers in the U.S. sold 73% more oranges than in May 2019. In July, sales were still high, 52% higher than one year earlier.

Less choice and more house brands

It’s now a health hazard to hand out free samples and people want wider aisles and more space between the products and other people.

People are also spending less time in stores, if they go, and sticking to brands they know. It’s also true that algorithms lead online shoppers to make the same choices.

All of that means that grocers are offering fewer choices. In tandem, shoppers are demanding more economical choices–Target’s own label, Good & Gather will double its line this fall with over 600 new items.

A Food Industry Association study completed in July reported that three out of 10 consumers were buying more store brands than before the pandemic.

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