Citizen food behaviours
The impact of the pandemic on people’s livelihoods has led to a surge in small, at-home food businesses that the Food Safety Authority (FSA) this week called a ‘concerning development’. According to the FSA many are failing to formally register as food businesses, meaning their hygiene arrangements are not checked by local authorities with a resulting risk to the general public. About 44% of new food businesses started since the first lockdown are home-based, according to a recent FSA survey of nearly 200 local authorities.
Almost one year into the pandemic and the shift towards online shopping continues, with online grocery market share having doubled since the start of 2020 to 14% according to Kantar. Ocado this week announced that its sales had increased by a huge 35% over the course of the pandemic, with the CEO (perhaps optimistically) commenting that the grocery landscape worldwide is changing “for good”. Sales of organic food and drink have also benefitted during the pandemic, with new data from the Soil Association finding that sales grew 12.6% from 2019, representing a 15-year high growth rate and outperforming growth in the non-organic sector. One in four organic purchases was made online last year, with increasing sales of organic fruit and veg boxes cited as one potential reason for the uplift. Organic veg box supplier Riverford said 2020 sales increased by more than 40% compared to the prior year.
Divergent reports of fruit and veg consumption during Covid continue. Data from the Zoe Covid symptom tracker app found that while 33% of survey participants reported having increased their fruit and vegetable consumption between February and July 2020, 23% reported a decrease. With Tesco last month reporting record sales highs for brassicas and green veg during the first few weeks of 2021, growers’ associations are also reporting an uplift in fruit and veg sales. The British Onions Producers’ Association and UK Brassica Growers Association last week said they have experienced soaring sales of onions and brassicas during lockdown, and cited retail reports of a 25% rise in year-on-year sales of onions as an example. However, Euromonitor’s most recent Fresh Produce report found that while retail has seen a sales increase for the vegetable category with more citizens cooking at home, overall, the category had seen a total volume sales decline due to the closure of the out of home sector of 3% in 2020 to sit at 3.8 million tonnes.
Meat consumption also appears to have increased during the pandemic, with new research by Mintel finding that 41% of British consumers said they ate no or less meat last year, compared to 51% in 2019. Cuts such as burgers, bacon and sausages also increased in popularity according to the survey, with over half reporting that these foods were ‘comforting’.