Chicago, May 26, 2020 — Consumer reaction in the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak left grocery stores barren wastelands as shoppers in survival mode filled their carts to the brim with beverages and foods they felt would tide them over for the long haul.  As the outbreak measures evolved through sheltering-at-home, non-essential business closures, and an impacted economy, consumers turned their focus to making the most of the foods they stocked up on, according food and beverage market research from The NPD Group. 

Consumers reported that 63% of their eating occasions during the COVID-19 outbreak have been atypical, meaning they’re eating foods and beverages that are different from their normal routines, according to the findings of NPD’s NET® COVID-19 Pantry & Food Strategy Tracker. In addition to atypical eating behaviors, the vast majority of U.S. homes also reported that they now have five or more packages of the same item. While many of these items are shelf-stable and will last long, categories like fresh and refrigerated items made the list too.

With their pantries stocked, consumers now say that their top food planning strategy is to avoid food waste. Fifty-six percent of consumers said that they are avoiding food waste and saving leftovers for future use. Another 43% of consumers say that they cook just enough food to avoid food waste. One of the drivers of this food planning strategy is unemployment, reports NPD. Fifteen percent of consumer respondents reported that they were unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The initial response of stocking up enabled consumers to feel prepared to face whatever may come their way,” says David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Avoiding food waste and saving leftovers is what consumers have historically done to manage food costs during economically challenging times.”

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