Here are five things to know about how grocery shopping has changed in the pandemic




  • In Business
  • 2020-08-13 17:35:22Z
  • By USA TODAY
 

The grocery business has changed dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the U.S., shutting down many restaurants and food service facilities at schools.

Here are five things that have changed at grocery stores:

Prices are higher

Unprecedented demand plus production problems, especially at meat plants, as well as the costs to rapidly switch to e-commerce and equip stores and employees with plastic shields, masks and sanitizing products, have added costs into the business. Also, manufacturers have seen no need to offer discounts for products that are flying off store shelves. The higher prices have generally leveled off as the industry has absorbed the additional costs, but higher prices will likely persist through 2020.

Perishable items more popular

Consumers are buying more perishables at the grocery store, including fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood and dairy as more people stay home to eat. Anything with "berry" on the end of it - say, strawberries, blueberries or raspberries, have been selling well, grocers say. The panic buying that characterized the beginning of the pandemic has largely subsided.

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Treating ourselves

Snacks, fancy chocolate and frozen treats are selling well, said Rick Shea, president of Shea Food Consultants, a Minneapolis grocery and consumer packaged goods consulting firm. "Consumers are looking for more every day indulgences from the grocery channel," Shea said. "Categories like snacking continue to be up dramatically because consumers are spending more time at home. It's a little luxury."

Fewer choices

Grocery industry folks say they are noticing a trend among manufacturers who have cut back or eliminated production of all but their best-selling items. Whether that trend has staying power remains to be seen. There are few to almost no shortages, save for some cleaning items in stores. Consumers should be able to find whatever they need, but they might not be able to find it in the particular size, flavor or variety they are looking for.

Online shopping here to stay

Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed and quickly brought to market and administered across the population, a sense of wariness has set in among those most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill from the virus. Those folks have likely changed their habits permanently and will shop for groceries using as little human contact as possible. Others have discovered the convenience of online ordering and delivery or pickup and will stick with it. Meanwhile, that shift in business has created hundreds of new jobs in the grocery industry.

Contact Joe Taschler at (414) 224-2554 or jtaschler@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTaschler or Facebook at facebook.com/joe.taschler.1.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Grocery shopping: Rising prices have slowed as we buy ourselves treats

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