Sat, 23 Oct 2021

WELLINGTON, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- New Zealanders' grocery shopping over the past few years has focused on the latest "superfood" or diet and lifestyle craze, but this year a research commissioned by United Fresh showed Wednesday the significant impact of COVID-19 in supermarket aisles around New Zealand.

Empty shelves, food shortages, masks and socially distanced queues make the weekly shop seem like something from a sci-fi film compared to the "old normal" before the pandemic, and the Nielsen IQ study completed in June this year showed just how far New Zealanders have shifted from the carefree days before COVID.

In 2019, less than 10 percent of Kiwis shopped for their groceries online. Over the last year to June 2021, 34 percent of New Zealand households shopped for groceries online with supermarkets seeing a 44 percent increase in online sales. Almost three-quarters of this growth has come from shoppers new to the online experience.

Shoppers keen to avoid the pandemic-related stress of shopping in person have embraced the opportunity to shop from their home with the research finding the average Kiwi household shops online 11 times a year, spending a total of 1,800 NZ dollars per year with an average of 162 NZ dollars per shop.

While New Zealanders have converted quickly to online shopping, the research shows New Zealanders still prefer to shop in person. For every 10 online purchases of fresh produce, 77 were made in stores.

Despite this gap, online fruit and vegetable sales are still the fastest growing food category and shoppers spend over 40 percent more on their fruit and vegetables when they're buying online rather than in store.

Although it seems counter-intuitive to the COVID message of touching as little as possible and staying masked-up, the ability to use the senses to select items of produce remains important for shoppers.

In the face of the strange new shopping experience, New Zealanders are continuing to shop less frequently and are spending more with each shop. Compared with the second quarter of 2021 to the rolling two-year average, shoppers visited the supermarket six percent less often and spent six percent more with each shop.

The average value of a shopper's trip to the supermarket is higher when they are purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables. Immunity-boosting fruit and vegetables are an important item on the shopping list, with over half of all trips to the grocery store contain at least one fruit and vegetable item.

Fresh produce also accounts for a big part of the shopping budget with the average spending of a shopping trip totalling two and a half times higher when fresh fruit and vegetables are in the basket, compared to when they are not.

By June this year, 62 percent of the Kiwi shoppers surveyed felt financially constrained, with about a third of those in difficulty due to the pandemic.

As a result, almost 24 percent of New Zealanders are cooking at home more often with many noting that cooking at home is cheaper, tastier, and healthier than eating out.

This group of shoppers is expected to grow in size in the wake of the Delta lockdown as food insecurity reaches even greater levels across the country. (1 New Zealand dollar equals 0.70 U.S. dollar)

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