Field Period: April 11 – 17, 2020



We asked participants how difficult certain food items are to find, what substitutions/changes they’ve made as a result, and how worried they are about food availability in the near future.


  • Match emerging customer purchase patterns with new solutions and suggestions – volume, quantity, timing, versatility, new needs.
  • Actively advise your customers on availability, and create new ways for the customer to fulfill their shopping needs without surprises.
  • Be a storyteller with content marketing solutions that distribute valuable and relevant information to defined audiences.


Few Admit to Hoarding Food, But Most Admit They Are Buying More Food and “Stocking Up” Whenever They Can

Families say they are buying more food per shopping trip than before the quarantine, for a few key reasons:

  • They are planning for a longer buying cycle (i.e. two weeks vs. one week between store visits) in hopes of minimizing visits to the store
  • They are buying more food for children who are home all day from school
  • They are not dining out nearly as much as before
  • When favorite foods are in stock, they buy more to ensure they are covered just in case

“We are buying a lot for food for meals because we are not ordering from restaurants at all right now.  We also buy 2 of things we use often so we don’t worry about running out.  We aren’t buying anything less.  We are shopping at Walmart but we are also shopping at Costco a lot more than before.  We do a big 2-week shopping trip there because we like the items there for meals and we like that the store has a lot of space and big aisles… it feels safer. I always shop online but I’m definitely trying to shop online for anything that I can find online so we don’t have to go into a store.” – RebeccaH, 45, GenX, Suburban


Shoppers Have Shifted Away from Perishable to Non-Perishable Items

Again, there are a couple of reasons consumers are buying less fresh food and are stocking up on more pantry staples, frozen foods and canned goods.

  • Low availability of meat and produce
  • Extending time between shopping trips, avoiding quick trips and trying to stretch food for longer periods of time
  • Responding to financial changes or concerns – trying to bring the grocery bill down by choosing versatile foods such as pasta, rice and beans

Much Uncertainty Regarding Potential Food Shortages; Most Aren’t Sure How to Prepare or Respond

Consumers do worry that food supply chains may be disrupted, especially given recent news about closures of meat processing plants. The idea fuels fear and anxiety, but most claim they aren’t changing behavior as a result of this fear. They know intellectually that major disruptions could change food availability for weeks or months, but they don’t seem to know what to do about it.

Real-World Observation: Wendy’s Burger Chain… With No Burgers?


Shoppers seem very focused on the here and now, at most planning ahead for a time frame of a few weeks.

Interestingly, what we didn’t hear much of was stockpiling, stocking their freezers, or planning ahead for potential shortages. Some simply don’t worry about food availability going forward because they have been able to find most of what they need, most of the time.


Is Bread-Baking a Change of Direction?

There is some evidence that mindsets are changing around food and cooking. Most say they are cooking more home-cooked meals, and even cooking from scratch more. They’re avoiding dining out and have more time to prepare and enjoy more complicated meals

We’ve heard in our community and in the media that baking is a fun activity that many families are now engaging in, and baking their own bread is part of this trend. Perhaps this signals a return to simplicity and self-sufficiency and more of a “homemade mentality,” helping to somewhat offset their anxieties on the mass-market, processed food supply, as well as helping save money on food shopping.

Metametrix identified key consumer values regarding the food supply and how people are shopping differently in the face of scarcity. Perhaps not surprisingly, one value filtered to the top: THRIFT. As some are facing financial challenges, pay cuts and furloughs, saving money on food becomes tantamount.



In future issues we’ll explore:

  • Staying healthy – what are consumers doing to stay healthy – and what’s difficult?
  • Fun and games – how is COVID-19 impacting gaming behaviors – digital and analog?


Each week we engage a panel of 500 Americans of various backgrounds for discussions on how the coronavirus pandemic is shaping human behavior, experiences, feelings and beliefs. To get a full understanding of participants’ experiences we’re examining the results as qualitative researchers and text analysts.

Over time we’ll track which changes have lasting cultural impact and change consumer behavior, and which are temporary adjustments to an unprecedented crisis.

For more information on our study and how your business might benefit from these insights, contact Metametrix at or Insight Safari at