Will the COVID-19 pandemic cause younger consumers to adjust their health and wellness buying habits?

May 18, 2020

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we can expect consumers to reprioritize how they shop, what they buy, and why they purchase. FMCG Gurus, the market research firm, has published some insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the purchasing habits of different generations. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has been a shocking turn of events in all our lives, forcing people of all ages to reevaluate their habits and beliefs. During this time, we can expect consumers to reprioritize how they shop, what they buy, and why they purchase. FMCG Gurus, the market research firm, has published some insights into how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact the purchasing habits of different generations.

Gen X Sees Most Drastic Change

The generation which FMCG believes will be the most influenced to make significant long-term shopping behavior changes is Generation X, those born between the mid-1960s to early 1980s. According to the market research firm, Generation X is at a critical stage in life, and the pandemic is likely eye-opening for many Gen-Xers.

“They no longer classify themselves as young adults but at the same time do not deem themselves to be ‘old.’ As such, they believe that they can lead a fit and healthy lifestyle for a long time,” explains Mike Hughes, head of research and insight at FMCG Gurus. “At the same time, they also realize, as they get older, their vulnerability to disease and illness. In a pandemic environment, these concerns will be intensified, and consumers will look to make changes to their shopping habits in order to lead a healthier lifestyle.”

Store Brands versus Brand Names

Coinciding with the motivation to embrace a healthier lifestyle are financial and economic concerns raised by the pandemic. Consumers may adopt a “back to basics” approach, relying on traditional means of health and nutrition rather than on purchasing functional foods, for instance. “Given that consumers can often associate functional products with a premium price tag, they will turn to everyday products that they know and trust and deem nutritious – such as fruit and vegetables,” says Hughes.

Given financial concerns, consumers will also prioritize what they are willing to spend more money on. Increasingly, they may choose to indulge on items that provide comfort and escape. This may present an opportunity for private-label store brands offering more affordable alternatives to name brands.

“Consumers will demonstrate polarized behaviors when it comes to spend,” Hughes explains. “In product categories associated with indulgence, consumers will be less price sensitive and more impulsive, meaning they will deviate towards brands they know and trust and associate with offering moments of enjoyment. On the other hand, they will become less brand conscious and more willing to shop around when it comes to everyday basic offerings.”

Other Changes

In times of uncertainty, consumers also adopt ethnocentric attitudes, explains Hughes, which may benefit local supply chains, as well as burden them with higher demand. “This means that [consumers] adopt more favorable perceptions of products from their home country whilst at the same time become less trusting of products from a foreign country,” he elaborates. “As such, consumers will want local products with reduced supply chains. This is because such products in general are associated with being healthier, more sustainable, more trustworthy, and of better quality.”

Technology will continue to pervade all aspect of our lives, as shelter-in-place orders force us to rely on digital means of communication and commerce even more than usual. While consumers in general have preferred to do their grocery shopping themselves, having more control over the quality and freshness over the products being picked, the pandemic is making online shopping for foods and beverages more attractive.

“As a result of COVID-19, consumers say that they are now more willing to shop online – even if they are not actually doing so at present,” says Hughes. “In order to encourage more consumers [to shop] online, brands and retailers need to offer maximum reassurance when it comes to safety and the supply chain, as well as the freshness and quality of products delivered. This is something that will be more important than whether a product is branded or not.”

For younger generations, such as Generation Alpha – those born from 2010 onwards – technology will continue to serve as an important resource for addressing health and wellness concerns. This includes apps that monitor their health and allow them to personalize nutritional needs, as well as to perform genetic nutrition testing, says Hughes.