Acosta analyzes new wave of changes to US consumer behavior amid COVID-19

Jesus Figueroa

Acosta, a leading full-service sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods industry, released its third round of research providing insight into how consumer shopping habits are continuing to shift due to COVID-19.

The report, which found shopper concern over the pandemic is escalating, especially among older households and those in hardest-hit areas, also provides guidance to help retailers best serve consumers.
"While we're still seeing new trends form week-to-week, like the prioritization of comfort foods over pantry and paper products, we're also seeing trends solidify with e-commerce continuing to surge and in-store trips continuing to decline due to growing concern," Darian Pickett, CEO of Acosta, said. "Our research shows that shopper concern continues to increase as weeks go by. In our first shopper survey from March 6 to March 12, concern levels averaged 6.9, and now it's risen to 8.2 out of 10. That said, we're optimistic these concerns will reverse with more than half of shoppers surveyed noting they expect their shopping habits to return to 'normal' once the pandemic is over."
Acosta's third COVID-19 research report, gathered via online surveys conducted between April 3 and April 7, provides insight into both current and future consumer behavior, as well as recommendations for retailers, including: 

Changing Habits and Preferences:
  • In line with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, shoppers are making 52% fewer store trips. 
  • Online grocery ordering is continuing to surge with 51% of shoppers placing an order in the past four weeks ending April 7. 
  • Of online grocery shoppers, 33% made their first-ever online grocery order in that period, up 5% from the previous report
  • Shopper priorities are beginning to shift with comfort foods edging out pantry and paper products for the first time. Shoppers reported sweets, frozen pizza, and salty snacks topped their shopping list for the upcoming week. 
  • To support local economies, shoppers also planned to buy meals from area restaurants in the upcoming week via drive-thru (38%), carry-out (36%) and delivery (24%).
Previewing Post-Pandemic Life
  • Sixty-eight percent of shoppers said it's extremely or very likely that their grocery habits will return to normal once the pandemic is over. 
  • Fifty-eight percent of shoppers said it's extremely or very likely they will return to the same eating out routines they had before. 
  • Fifty-six percent of shoppers said it's extremely or very likely that they will eat at home more than they used to for a while. 
  • Thirty-one percent of shoppers said it's extremely or very likely they will do more online grocery pick-up or delivery than they did before.
Rules of Engagement for Retailers:
  • Focus on people first, namely shoppers and staff, and ensure enhanced safety by enabling no-touch transactions, like self-checkout and Apple Pay. 
  • Recognize changing shopper attitudes and behaviors and adapt quickly by offering assorted comfort foods and snacks in addition to essentials. 
  • Ensure the retail digital shelf and e-commerce strategies are prepared for the accelerated shift to online grocery demand. 
  • With staying at home likely remaining strong in the months post-COVID, provide convenient shopper "solutions" centered on meals and self-care. 
  • Accommodate lower-income shoppers who are getting relief to buy food via stimulus checks; they may be looking to trade down and leverage promotions.
Acosta's research was gathered via online surveys using the company's proprietary shopper community between April 3 and 7.

The report also includes comparison data from online surveys conducted between March 6 and 12 and March 20 and 29.

To access the full report, visit

Acosta will continue to conduct research and will share updated data and recommendations for retailers and manufacturers on how to best meet consumers' needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

About Acosta
Acosta is the sales and marketing powerhouse behind most of the trusted brands seen in stores every day. The company provides a range of outsourced sales, marketing and retail merchandising services throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. For 90 years, Acosta has led the industry in helping consumer packaged goods companies move products off shelves and into shoppers' baskets. For more information, please visit

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