Food is one of the most significant components of retail consumption. It accounts for more than 30 percent of the overall consumer expenditure. The changing market dynamics have had an impact on consumer behavior. Becoming specific, it has emerged as a segment with massive opportunities. Food buying behavior was changing; however, the emergence of COVID-19 altered its track rapidly.
Some of the trends visible in food buying behavior are:
Impact of Technology on Food Buying Behavior: Buying food from the supermarket can be challenging. Finding your favorite product from the hundreds of products stacked in different rows can test patience. Established practices are changing to facilitate ease of transaction for the consumer, from traditional stores to stores where we do not need to stand in the queue or fish out our wallets is becoming possible. Organized retail now accounts for around 30 percent of sales in FMCG products. Further, the term 'going shopping' may soon become obsolete since technology can help the buyer access things at the click of a button.
Traditional Stores vs E-commerce: E-commerce websites have continued to penetrate the food market for quite some time. The market has a myriad of options. Some applications and websites promise delivery of food and grocery items within two hours. However, they are still far from replacing the age-old brick-and-mortar stores. The traditional stores continue to dominate the food sales market. The primary reason behind the continued dominance is the consumer mentality of examining the food items through their sensory mediums. They continue to harp on the need to smell and touch the food items to ensure their freshness which of all other possibilities is impossible on the digital platform. Furthermore, visiting a brick-and-mortar store provides the customer with a shopping experience that cannot happen through electronic mediums.
The Local Food Retailer: Kiranas or the local food retailers have been supplying essential food items to the people in the vicinity for ages. While the national and internal players continued to find ways and means to penetrate the market, the local player swiftly adapted to the changing needs of the time. Kirana stores are leaving no stones unturned in providing the best shopping experience to their customers. They are adopting practices that can keep them in the race. Quick and accurate digital bills, seasons/ festival discounts, free home delivery are among a slew of initiatives that help Kiranas remain the first preference of buyers. Some prominent retail players have developed applications centered on Kirana stores to propel their growth.
The Experimentative Nature: Food buying behavior is guided maximum by the choices of the customer. The consumer has become increasingly experimentative. Fond of exquisite cuisines and international brands, they do not mind paying extra for a premium or healthy organic food item. The result is that all supermarkets and the larger Kirana stores of the region offer new food items like quinoa and apple cedar vinegar. Salad dressings and syrups that were rare to find have tumbled down to the local stores.
Increasing Health Consciousness: Over the last few years, there has been a significant change in the food consumption pattern. The urban consumer, in particular, is opting for traditional food that had lost its way to the kitchen. Food items like flax seeds and foxnuts are considered wonder food; aware consumers are increasingly opting for these food items. The dominant wheat flour was subtly replaced by the multi-grain aata, the white rice found competition from brown rice and the polished shiny pulses gave way to non-lustrous packaged daals. Fruit juices, health drinks, and healthy breakfast options like corn flakes or muesli are preferred options of the Indian consumer.
Over and above all, the global pandemic has had an irreversible effect on food buying behavior. COVID-19 has also proved to be a boon in disguise for all the e-commerce players. Consumers are opting for no-contact delivery of food items. While the smaller Kirana stores are struggling to serve their customers, the e-retail suppliers have benefitted from the situation by catering to this demand. Surveys indicate that more than 40 percent of buyers believe that they would continue to abstain from physical stores even when the pandemic ceases. Further, the stress of opting for healthy food items has soared beyond all previous records. Consumers are opting for food items that can help them improve immunity and stay protected against the disease.