McKinsey: Food consumption habits will change for good

10 June 2020 5 min. read

The Covid-19 crisis is significantly changing consumption patterns and consciousness, in both Australia and across the globe according to a new McKinsey & Company study.

The global management consultancy surveyed more than 5,000 consumers across seven Asia Pacific (APAC) countries, to get an idea of how consumer behaviour is changing under Covid-19 circumstances. In Australia, a cohort of developments is inciting consumers to change the habits and traditions that have dominated for years.

“For many Australians, life outside the home used to be the primary driver that set the rhythms and routines of daily life. With Covid-19 breaking many of these social and personal habits, consumers are now reevaluating priorities for how they spend time and money,” says the report.Consumption from grocery stores will continue to increaseThe authors suggest that some of these changes might well be here to stay. For instance, the lockdown has brought about some obvious changes in consumption patterns, with the mandatory closure of stores and restaurants during the lockdown. Australians have been forced to avoid a meal out or a drink at the pub, and many have increasingly turned to the online channel to meet their needs.

While many consumers have obviously expressed their excitement about eating in restaurants again, McKinsey’s study expects a 7% drop in dine-in restaurant eating once the crisis has passed, which indicates a significant shift.

Meanwhile, the lockdown has forced an increase in grocery purchases, and this trend is likely to continue in the post-Covid-19 world. To this end, consumers appear to have become more conscious and sophisticated in their purchases.

Consumers expect to care more about product

Likewise, an Accenture report releases last month found that most Australians have become more mindful of food waste, health considerations and sustainability when it comes to their grocery choices.

McKinsey reports that product safety has also emerged as a key consideration. Approximately 40% of the respondents to the survey have noted that they care more about product safety now, while going forward a third plan to spend more time on understanding product safety.

Another trend noted by Accenture in its study was a growing preference for local stores and products, driven partly by necessity and partly by other considerations such as supporting the community and building stronger local relationships. McKinsey confirms this sentiment, with more than 85% reporting that they will continue to shop local groceries post Covid-19.

Availability and location are primary reasons for shifting

Other changes uncovered are being driven by sheer necessity. Many Australians have changed their grocer of choice under Covid-19 circumstances, and the two primary motivations behind this change are the availability of fresh foods and the location of the shop close to home.

Fresh groceries

Stockpiling has been a steady theme throughout the lockdown, which means availability of fresh produce comes at a premium. As a result, consumers in Australia have been chasing down fresh produce, even if it means a change from regular grocers. Meanwhile, others are changing for the sake of convenience under lockdown, choosing the closest option. Nevertheless, most indicate that they will return to their original grocers once the lockdown is over.

In keeping with all these considerations, McKinsey’s authors report that many Australians have turned to the online sphere for grocery purchases, as it offers safety from human interaction as well as guarantees availability. Even online, shoppers appear to be more conscious of their choices than ever.Most will return to their original grocers post the crisis“We hear consumers talking about shifting to digital shopping. But, rather than a simple switch in consumer channel preference, they speak about mindfully evaluating and selecting digital retailers to avoid poor user experiences, slow and inaccurate delivery, reduced quality of customer service, and, at times, profiteering,” says the report.

McKinsey’s analysis was led by partners Dymfke Kuijpers (senior partner in Singapore), Simon Wintels (partner in Singapore) and Naomi Yamakawa (partner in Tokyo).