UK Grocery baskets during the pandemic

UK Grocery baskets during the pandemic

How did Grocery baskets adjust during the pandemic to affect products and brands?

Latest Kantar research data* highlights that the lockdown (March to August 2020) saw take-home Grocery sales reach and remain in double digit growth. However, August signalled a slowing down with sales in the last 4 weeks of August at the lowest monthly total of the crisis so far. But how have UK grocery products and brands fared during the pandemic from late February through to August 2020?

Using the Kantar Grocery retail data, let’s have a round up of the activity from late February to August 2020:

Late February to mid-March 2020
The frequency of trips hovered just around 5 times per month and the average grocery basket spend per trip was slightly above £15 increasing to £17 towards the end of the period – perhaps evidence of the beginning to stock pile.

Send half of March
This was when the COVID-19 impact was felt and/or restrictions began to be imposed ending with the lockdown occurring on 23rd of March. There was clear evidence of stock piling with the number of trips rising and average spend beginning to rise.

April 2020
The trends seen towards the end of March accelerates and then stabilises. Stock piling is evidenced by trip frequency dropping to below 4 a month with trip spend rising above £20 per trip and peaking at around £24 per trip. Towards the end of the month, the behaviour patterns for grocery shopping very slowly started to revert. During the lockdown bigger baskets grew by 44% as stock piling occurred.

Around mid-April, buying behaviour peaked. This peak in behaviour resulted in fewer trips to shops to just below 4 (from above 5) a month with an average grocery basket spend per trip of approaching £25 (from £15).

May to August 2020
From the above peak, there was a gradual fall which looks as if normal pre-pandemic behaviour might revert to pre-pandemic levels by November (if the trend continued). The impact of masks towards the end of July did not really interfere with the return to normalcy. Although Kantar detected a fall in frequency of grocery shopping trips after the compulsory wearing of masks. Kantar believe that shoppers needed two weeks to adjust to the new regulations.

Will buying behaviour return to normal pre-pandemic levels?

The jury is out. Behaviour is still on trend though local lockdowns and tighter regional rules in the regions are yet to be fully lifted. One change which looks as if it will be permanent is the move to online delivery (e-commerce) shopping. This has risen week by week over the period to August 2020 – now reaching 13% for grocery over the last 4 weeks (ending mid-August).

Other trends

Kantar also noted that Supermarkets have lost share while other channels are now flat year-on-year.  The data also highlights that the Discounter stores have had mixed success and notably the Convenience stores have lost their appeal, with their market share declining as the pandemic has continued.

Meanwhile the number of stores visited increased from 3.5 at the NED of December 2019, and increased to 4.1 when the lockdown occurred as shoppers struggled to find the grocery item they were looking for and has now stabilised to 2.8 – which is lower than the per-lockdown.

Home Baking products and brands feel the effects…

Of the grocery categories, apart from hygiene/liquid soap (+150%), Home Baking products are a clear winner with a 63% increase. Although the data indicates that these products/brands are set to return to pre-pandemic levels. Also on the rise, ‘staying’ for the longer term, was alcohol consumption at home, in-home lunches and a 32% increase in spend on clothing and footwear for fitness and running.

What can the grocery retail brands take on board?

The increase share of E-commerce (online purchase/delivery) has increased to 13% (up 5%) and looks set to stay at this level for the longer term. Promotions have been intermittent but saw a 6% drop in volume of Groceries on a ‘deal’ in April. So new deals in September and beyond should move to adjust to reflect the online gains in buyer behaviour.

Also, Healthy Eating appears to be wavering, due to the drop in healthy choices. So health products/brands can now reinforce their messaging to encourage consumers to once again buy healthy (‘get back on the healthy eating path’) and can also remind them to make greater use of their new (or existing) online home delivery slot. Retailers continue to strengthen their delivery capacity, Tesco increased its slots to 780,000 a week by early April (which a month later rose to 1 million a week) thus helping to support the increase in demand for online shopping.

For an update on how the UK retail nut category was affected during the national lockdown, click here.


Professor Krish Bhaskar
An author, speaker, and commentator. Active within the US Agricultural sector, from the policy and political standpoint, and Brexit and future US trade relations.

* With thanks to Kantar and Joe Shaw Roberts for their support on the data and analysis.

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