CHICAGO — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, consumers are focused on getting as much as possible from their food and beverage purchases, according to research by The NPD Group.
Following the initial rush on grocery stores at the beginning of the outbreak as consumers shifted to survival mode, shoppers are strategizing to avoid letting their purchases go to waste.
Consumers report that 63 percent of their eating occasions during the pandemic have been atypical, or that they are eating food and beverages that are different from their normal routines.
Additionally, the vast majority of U.S. households now have five or more packages of the same item. Many such items are shelf stable and will last for extended periods, but consumers are also buying extras of fresh and refrigerated items, according to NPD's NET COVID-19 Pantry & Food Strategy Tracker.
The current top food planning strategy is to avoid wasting the contents of those well stocked pantries, with 56 percent of consumers saying that they are avoiding food waste and saving leftovers for future use, and another 43 percent saying that they cook just enough food to avoid food waste.
Unemployment is a notable driver of this anti-waste strategy, as 15 percent of consumer respondents reported that they were unemployed due to the pandemic.
"The initial response of stocking up enabled consumers to feel prepared to face whatever may come their way," said 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."