A quarter of shoppers bought food online for the first time during the pandemic and the digital shift is set to stay, according to Waitrose.
The supermarket chain, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership chain, said customers’ regular shopping and eating habits have been “fundamentally reshaped” by the pandemic, in its latest Annual Food Report.
Waitrose said it expects many trends which emerged during the pandemic to continue to grow in 2021.
Almost 70% of customers who shopped online during the pandemic said they expect to do so next year, even if current restrictions are lifted.
Waitrose executive director James Bailey told the PA news agency many changes in consumer habits had already begun to be noticed before the pandemic hit, so are “unlikely to reverse”.
“The rise in online shopping is a good example of the pandemic really accelerating a trend which was happening anyway,” he said.
“We’ve had feedback from a lot of customers who previously might not have planned to use online but now had to, who have essentially been converted.
“It is obviously very early to suggest what will be permanent and stay next year, but we are confident online is an area which will continue to grow.”
The report also revealed that shoppers were using their increased free time at home to cook meals that take significantly longer.
It said that sales of meat which typically needs to be cooked slowly had increased, such as oxtail, which saw sales more than triple over the year.
Waitrose added customers had spent more on items which they would typically eat and drink outside of their homes.
Sales of coffee beans jumped by 44% as customers were consuming coffee at home which they might typically have bought from chains near their offices instead.
Despite the UK suffering its sharpest economic drop on record following the pandemic, Mr Bailey said there was a growth in demand for luxury items because a lack of holidays or social events had given some people more money to spend on groceries.
“It was unusual because we saw double-digit growth of our essential range, which traded really well all year, but also on higher-end lines too,” he said.
“Luxury products and meals did well because people still had a desire to treat themselves during lockdown.”