Food Consumption Patterns in Australia: How Covid Changed Food Trends

Lockdowns have forced many Australians to reconsider their lifestyle and consumption habits. The virus’s negative effects are felt in all areas. This includes the closure of businesses and a decline in mental health. The ripple effects of these impacts are felt across all sectors, both economic and social. As an example, consumers’ digital habits have evolved. It is not surprising that they spend more time reading news websites. This effect is not as direct, but it has affected Australians’ food habits. Brands that identify these habits early can engage in well-thought-out strategies to help them solidify their position at the forefront of the minds of consumers. This article examines those habits and some of the actions brands can take to increase their brand’s presence with consumers.

Australia’s Food Consumption Patterns

Four major trends have emerged in how the pandemic has affected Australians’ food consumption. This includes more home-cooked food, convenience, snacking, and discretionary consumption.

1. Home-cooked meals are on the rise

No surprise that more Australians have been cooking at home during the pandemic. The lockdowns and the inability to dine out at restaurants have forced people to cook their meals. IAB Australia’s and Pureprofile’s Australian eCommerce September 2020 report shows that COVID-19 significantly influenced the shopping behavior of Australians. Within the online grocery sector, it increased by 37% compared to last year.

Australian Bureau of Statistics shows supermarkets and grocery store sales have increased significantly in March 2020. Major Australian retailers like Woolworths have a 28 percent increase in sales compared to last year. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has reported that supermarkets and grocery stores have seen a significant rise in March 2020 sales. Major Aussie retailers such as Woolworths, for example, recorded a 28 percent jump from last year.

According to Australia’s Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB),  trends show Aussies visit more food and cooking websites, with a 31% increase in the time spent during the week of July 12. Advertisers and affiliates need to factor this trend into their future content and campaigns.

2. Increased consumption of discretionary foods

Australians have become more prone to eating unhealthy food due to the lockdown. Stress from the pandemic has caused people to turn more and more to comfort foods and snacks. Dieticians and nutritionists in Australia are concerned about the rising obesity and overweight levels due to the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Australian dietary guidelines suggest eating more portions of nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains while limiting consumption of discretionary food with saturated fats, added sugars, salts, or alcohol. Statistics show that the trend is in the opposite direction. Data from CISRO, for example, shows that 61 percent of Australians on lockdown increased their junk food intake, and 63 percent recorded an increase in snacking.

A study (11 ) conducted by CQUniversity also found that over 26 percent of participants had reported an increase in their alcohol consumption. In the same survey, 48.9% of respondents reported that they had become less active after the pandemic.

3. The need for convenience is growing

Lockdown fatigue is increasing as lockdowns continue to extend. This fatigue leads to a lack of motivation, and people turn towards convenience food. Takeaway orders and food delivery service sales have also skyrocketed. Deliveroo reports that takeaway orders grew a record 579 percent in April 2020. This was a month when lockdowns reached their height. Deliveroo records that customers are ordering dinner earlier and that Saturday night orders have now surpassed Friday night orders. This is a clear indicator of lockdown effects.

The demand for pre-made meals is another form of convenience. In recent weeks, lockdown fatigue has led to a significant increase in demand for Australian food subscription services. Food subscriptions offer value to Australians who cook at home. They eliminate the hassle of planning meals and deliver the products directly to their doorsteps.

4. Plant-based diets are becoming more popular

In Australia, there are 2.5 million vegans and vegetarians. The number of products in Australia with the vegan label has increased from 94% to 44.1 million from 2015. This shift is attributed to the Millennial generation, as this plant-based diet movement does not have age or demographic restrictions. Even those who do not understand Australia’s eating practices are aware of the power of information and how it can benefit them.

Brand Strategy and Action

Brands in the industry are able to take action based on their insights. Three specific actions are outlined.

1. Increased Takeaway Capacity

A report from McKinsey states that the indoor dining experience may not be restored to its level pre-pandemic for many years. Restaurants should increase takeaway capacity in order to remain open. Optimizing the layout of their restaurants for drive-throughs and take-outs is one way to do this. Restaurants should aim to minimize cooking time, ensure that food is suitable for takeaways, and get customers into and out of their venue as quickly and efficiently as possible.

2. Existing business model re-examined

Businesses should re-strategize in order to survive in this industry. This means examining how they work. Restaurants could, for example, negotiate longer-term agreements with third-party companies that deliver food and sell fixed assets no longer needed in their new business models. Some reports show an increase in Ghost Kitchens, where restaurants only operate through deliveries and takeaways instead of building a physical structure.

3. Healthy, Ready-to Meals are a great investment.

Brands can be ambassadors of healthy meals and give the public the chance to reduce the consumption of discretionary food and increase the intake of nutritious foods. Businesses can gain brand recognition among consumers by including ready-to-eat meals on their menus. They will not only be able to capitalize on a growing market but also benefit from growing demand. Healthy, ready-made meal brands are popular because they offer the convenience that customers need when they don’t have time to prepare their meals.

Businesses in the food sector can take advantage of the pandemic to expand and reach a new market. If you’re a brand that wants to expand your online reach, contact our sales team at Commission Factory. Join Commission Factory if you’re a publisher who wants to promote food brands.

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