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Large study unveils eating habits during the corona crisis

Under the leadership of the MAPP Centre at Aarhus University, researchers have studied Europeans' eating habits during the corona crisis across 10 countries. The results show, among other things, a tendency towards more deliberate and larger purchases as well as a strengthened interest in cooking - and there are indications that some of the new habits will continue.

[Translate to English:] Foto: Colourbox

The corona crisis has in many ways changed the way we live, but how has it changed the way we eat and shop? Researchers from a number of European countries have taken a closer look at this under the leadership of the MAPP Centre at Aarhus University. The results of the research project funded by EIT Food have just been published in a report.

The project is based on a questionnaire survey conducted at the end of September among 5000 adult consumers in ten European countries - just over 500 in each country: Spain, Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, France, Greece, Finland and Romania. The countries have been selected in an effort both to ensure geographical spread and to accommodate countries that were affected to varying degrees by the pandemic at the time when the study was planned. The participants in the study were selected based on a criterion of being either fully or partly responsible for the purchase of food in the household, and a representative distribution between men and women as well as different age groups was achieved by means of quotas.

Professor Klaus Grunert, head of the MAPP Centre, has had the overall responsibility for the study:

- Lockdown, isolation and homework are some of the factors that have influenced Europeans' consumer behavior during the corona crisis. Some have had more free time, but perhaps also less money on their hands. It is inevitable that such major changes in our lives will affect the way we shop and eat. We have shed light on this in the study.

The study is based on consumers' own assessments of their behavior and experiences during the crisis and prior to the crisis, answering questions such as: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, how did your consumption change?”, “Post-pandemic, how important will eating a varied menu be to you?” and “Post-pandemic, how important will having time to cook meals be to you?”

Bulk buying and greater interest in cooking

The results of the study show that European consumers, despite certain regional differences, actually have much in common during the corona crisis:

- We can see certain trends in the Europeans' shopping habits. Across the ten countries, consumers are starting to shop more online. They have also started bulk buying, and they generally consume more food in all food categories, especially fruit, vegetables and flour, says Klaus Grunert, and adds:

- The European consumers also answer that they have started planning their purchases more carefully, both to save money and because they are generally more mindful when it comes to shopping. For example, they have a greater interest in buying local products than before the corona crisis, and they want to avoid additives to a greater extent. They are also more interested in food packaging, and here we can see, among other things, that they are caught in a dilemma between hygiene and environmental considerations.

The fact that many Europeans spend more time at home during the corona crisis is also reflected in changing habits in the kitchen and at the dining table:

- More consumers state that they now enjoy cooking and trying out new recipes. This generally results in lower consumption of ready meals. In addition, consumers have acquired new eating habits, so that they, to a greater extent, eat at fixed times and more often than before with family members, says Klaus Grunert.

Changed consumer behavior may persist

Although the study sheds light on Europeans' eating habits under quite unusual circumstances, there is some evidence that the changes in consumption may be lasting:

- Once the corona crisis is over, it is possible that the old habits in some areas will return, but consumers in our study state that they actually expect to stick to a number of the new habits. For example, we can see a desire to continue to prioritize cooking, eating healthy and keeping the weight down. The European consumers want to continue to keep food costs down. In addition, they say that they will continue to make efforts to avoid food waste, choose sustainable packaging and shop locally. It is therefore very possible that the corona crisis marks the beginning of new eating habits throughout Europe, says Klaus Grunert.

Project facts
Collaboration partnersThe project is led by the MAPP Centre, Aarhus University. The other project partnere are KU Leuven, Belgium, University of Helsinki, Finland, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain, University of Warsaw, Poland and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland

The project ”How the corona crisis affects consumer behaviour and consumer demand for food products and services” is funded by EIT Food. Visit the EIT Food website here. 

About EIT Food: The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) is an independent body under the auspices of the EU with the purpose of boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe. EIT is an umbrella body for a range of consortia working with innovation and entrepreneurship in various areas, such as climate, raw materials and food.

Conflicts of interestNone
Read more

Read more on the project website here
Read the entire report with project results here

ContactProfessor Klaus Grunert, MAPP Centre, Aarhus University, e-mail: klg@mgmt.au.dk - Phone: +45 87165007 - Mobile: +45 40385319