baking cooking pudding dessert

Source: Unsplash

Watching how the current home baking trend sustains and changes our buying habits in the long term will be fascinating

What an extraordinary time for grocery. It has been really interesting hearing from the different grocers on how consumer behaviour has been changing. The decrease in frequency and increase in basket size reported by most grocery retailers – Waitrose noted full trolley shops were up 56% and Kantar data recorded its highest-ever average basket value in the UK at £26.02 – is logical based on the measures in place, and it will be interesting to see how quickly we return to the normal behaviours if and when social distancing measures are reduced.

Not only is it how we’re buying groceries, but also what we’re buying which has kept the nation both concerned and intrigued in equal measure over the past couple of months. Some categories that should have boomed recently, such as Easter eggs and ice cream, fell flat whilst 40% of consumers now say they are doing much more home baking.

We constantly monitor how consumers’ searches around grocery change, and the past couple of months have provided some fascinating insights. Weekly search interest in grocery since the lockdown has been on average 100% higher than previous years when, to put that into context, we saw 10% growth on average a month for the preceding 18 months. This growth in searching is being driven across all subcategories, from nut butters to meat & poultry, as the nation changes the way it thinks about food. I highlight three standout trends below however.

Online grocery

We’re the most mature online grocery market in the western world, yet online grocery only represented 7% or so of the market before February. Search demand for online grocery has always been completely dwarfed by local supermarket searches (e.g. Tesco near me) but there has been a complete inversion in demand. Online grocery searches have soared with year-on-year growth of 800%-plus over the past 90 days, and now dwarf local searches which have even seen sustained growth of more than 130%, despite a significant decrease year on year over the Easter weekend.

  1. Sudden vs sustained demand

Thankfully, the rush of demand for items such as toilet paper and hand sanitiser seems to have calmed down – at one point searches for both were 50 times and 100 times usual levels respectively. Across a lot of other items we are, however, seeing surges with more sustained demand: staples like flour are seeing search volumes they have never seen in their history and for alcoholic beverages, like wine, it’s Christmas week every week at the moment in terms of search volume.

The big bake-off

The fastest growing search categories in grocery, after online, read as follows: baking ingredients, baked goods, jams/jellies and preserves. Home baking is very much something consumers have turned to during lockdown, and watching how this sustains and changes our buying habits in the long term will be fascinating.

Search trends in food and grocery across many European markets have broadly mirrored these trends: cultural differences shine through but we continually look at markets further into their lockdowns for leading indicators.

Whatever happens, the impact on consumers’ relationship with food has been significantly impacted, as life has been back to three meals a day at home and they’ve turned to online search to find answers. Who knows how quickly we’ll return to our old habits, but search behaviour is often a good indicator – and we’ll find out over the coming months.