Zinklar has conducted a survey in six countries – France, Germany, Mexico, Spain, the UK, and the US – to better understand food and drink consumption habits and how they have changed since the beginning of the pandemic. The insights revealed will help brands and retailers adapt to the new habits and to the evolving needs of consumers in the new normal.

Consumer behavior evolves progressively, not abruptly. That belief blew to pieces once the COVID-19 pandemic hit consumers globally. A few waves later, we as consumers have adapted our way of life to the ups and downs of the virus prevalence and the evolving health recommendations. In a world where we have learned to socialize through videoconference, work from home, and buy a lot more of our products and services online, it is clear that drink and food consumption habits was not going to stay still. And it has not. 

food consumption habits

54% of consumers declare that they have changed how they eat and drink since the pandemic started. 11% say that the level of change has been significant. Change has been more critical among the younger population, which is more adaptable and open to adopting new behaviors. 

Health and well-being have been at the heart of the change. For a couple of years, we have received plenty of information about how to prevent the spread of COVID cases, how to protect ourselves, and how we should cope with physical and mental well-being. Not surprising then that 51% of consumers declare to eat now more healthily. 

The return to the exact old patterns is unlikely. Speaking to many insights experts, I have always received the same question. Will consumers keep the new consumption habits, or will they be back to what they did before? These dilemmas only have a possible answer. Consumers will do both, but to what extent? Consumers that believe that new habits are to stay surpass comfortably the ones that believe that their consumption will return to what it was. 

Eat-in is the new eat-out. Consumers have been forced to replace eating out with different ways to treat themselves. One way has been accessing more often delivery services, which have particularly boomed in countries like the US and Mexico. The other way has been to cook at home some of the meals people used to consume out-of-home. 

Sustainability is diverse. Consumers worldwide identify using natural ingredients as one factor influencing their food and drinks purchase. But whereas in France, buying local products is extremely important, there is a higher interest in sustainable or waste-free packaging in the UK.

This survey’s findings help brands adapt their offers and messages to today’s consumers’ preferences. The quantification of the impact for every category will require a deep dive and, despite what we once believed was not needed, a regular check to early detect changes in consumer behavior patterns that are not stable anymore.

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