How The Grocery Sector Has Transformed Forever

As we pass the first anniversary of one of the greatest industry disruptions due to COVID-19, the pandemic has undoubtedly impacted grocers and shoppers for years to come. As a Public Relations and Digital Marketing agency representing grocery retailers in Toronto, we are very familiar with these changes and how they will continue to impact customers and how they shop, cook and eat. 

While the changes are significant, we are highlighting just a few key industry trends that we found particularly interesting and that we believe will continue to shape the grocery industry’s relationship with its consumers.

Shifting To Meal Kits & Chef Kits

Prior to COVID-19, the meal kit wars between Chefs Plate, Hello Fresh, Good Food and more was a sight to be seen. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a restaurant or grocery store not offering a meal kit to consumers. COVID-19 has pushed shoppers to stay home and cook more while balancing out their meal schedule with takeout and delivery. With many new home cooks, options for delicious home-cooked meals is overwhelming and can lead to limitations. Meal kits provide a fast and easy way to prepare delicious meals at home. We will see more grocers venture into new styles of meal kits including ready-to-go, warm-at-home meal kits to prepped ingredients where you do the cooking and feel like a real chef, without the work. Ingredient and dietary restrictions will be pivotal to set grocers and restaurants apart from their competitors. 

Check out meal kits at Longo’s here and Pusateri’s meal kits here.

Shopping Local

Now more than ever, restaurants need support from anyone and everyone to ensure they can keep our favourite dive bar or bistro alive post-pandemic. “Shop local” has become important to nearly every customer and grocery stores have taken notice.  Recently, grocery stores have started partnering with local chefs and restaurants to help distribute their products - everything from sauces, spices and cookbooks. With restaurants closed, grocery stores offer a great distribution channel for restaurants who have created new products for retail.  The relationships forged between restaurants and grocery stores will continue long after the pandemic and we can expect to see more collaboration and unique strategic partnerships down the road.

Retaining Shoppers With Innovation

While grocery eCommerce and delivery offerings are not necessarily new since the beginning of the pandemic, its evolution has been exponential throughout the last 12 months. Early movers in the grocery eCommerce and delivery space are seeing their preparation pay off. With the infrastructure, process and offerings set in place prior to the pandemic, the volume increase was the sole concern for these grocers. Those who innovated quickly to offer eCommerce services for their customers saw great growth during the pandemic with predictions of online shares accounting for more than 10% of sales in 2025, up from 3 percent in 2019.

It is important for grocers to continue to adapt and innovate within the eCommerce and delivery space offering faster and more reliable service for their customers. Another note to consider is that although previous in-person programs are not possible right now, there is still room to shift these initiatives online. Virtual cooking classes are an example of an innovative approach to keep their guests engaged. Check out Longo’s virtual cooking classes as an example.

Meeting Your Customers Where They Are

If we have learned anything throughout COVID-19, it is that tumultuous markets are our new normal. It is difficult to predict where shoppers may choose to eat as the industry and upcoming months are plainly unpredictable. That being said, the last 12 months have shown important patterns for grocers to consider when factoring in shopping habits. Through research and industry trends, grocers will need to continue to innovate the content produced and the platforms that they use to reach their customers. This means using both online and offline channels to support your marketing needs. Digital advertising, newsletter dissemination, and paid editorial are all avenues to explore. Wherever your customers are, you need to be.

Becoming More Sustainable

The need for sustainability considerations within all industries is imperative to the success of future generations. Prior to COVID-19 we saw shifts toward grocers mandating payment for plastic bags, switching to paper bags and more. As we dive into 2021, grocers will need to consider how their business is impacting our planet and what changes they can make to better our future. Shoppers are hungry for progressive thinking and this will ultimately affect where many decide to make their purchases, especially those who vote with their dollars.

We are excited to see what changes will be made in the grocery industry in 2021. It is extremely important to keep these trends top of mind when deciding what differences will be implemented in your store.

Blue Door is a public relations, digital marketing and design agency based in Toronto. We pride ourselves on being a modern agency with a sophisticated approach to marketing. As an award-winning agency, we have earned the trust of major organizations across the country in virtually every sector from hotels to healthcare. Check out our services page to learn more.


About the Author:

Leading the non-hospitality PR team at Blue Door, Kate Johnny is well-versed in media relations building relationships with outlets including Globe and Mail, Bloomberg, Financial Post and the Toronto Star.