Nielsen predicts permanent changes to Asia's post COVID-19 grocery market

16 Apr 2020

Following the easing of quarantine restrictions in Asia, Nielsen found that consumers in these countries are still more likely to eat at home and also more likely to continue to use take away and food delivery options than prior to the virus outbreak.

Japan is the only outlier across 12 Asian markets where consumers said they are less likely to change their eating habits as a result of the global pandemic, according to a study released by Nielsen released March 27.

Nielsen predicts permanent changes to Asia's post COVID-19 grocery market
Image via Scott Warman via Unsplash

The global research and insights company predicts that although these alterations in consumer behavior have the potential to revert to a pre-pandemic “normal,” it is more likely that such a retroactive readjustment will not transpire.

The Asian markets that Nielsen investigated were China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

“Consumer thinking and actions have been reoriented, and this will have long-term consequences. For many, old habits like eating out may forever be replaced by new habits, more apt to new, altered environments. Not only will consumers reassess where they’re eating, but they will also be far more cognizant of what they’re eating,” Vaughan Ryan, Nielsen’s Managing Director in Southeast Asia said in the report.

Shoppers residing in the Chinese mainland recorded particularly significant changes to their behavior. Despite the reopening of the country, 86% said they would eat at home more often than before the outbreak, 89% said they are still more willing to purchase fresh products and daily necessities online and 80% said they would continue to pay attention to eating healthy.

Other countries where eating at home has become a greater priority are Hong Kong (77%), Malaysia (62%), Vietnam (62%) and South Korea (62%). Since the end of January, grocery sales are regularly exceeding 20-25% of the average weekly sales across FMCG every week. This statistic indicates that the behavior that was once considered panic buying may be a more permanent shift to an at-home consumption trend.

However, restaurant meals have not gone by the wayside. Hong Kong, South Korea and Thailand consumers expressed continued high demand for takeaway food and home deliveries.

Restaurants and foodservice should remain alert as these changes in consumer preference have the ability to drastically affect the stability of their future. Retailers too will feel the effects of this shift and will need to consider how to stock their shelves in order to meet the increased level of demand that does not seem to be letting up any time soon.

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