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UBCO study suggests COVID-19 pandemic has changed our grocery habits

Do you order groceries online or get food delivered?
More people are getting groceries delivered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (Hananeko_Studio / Shutterstock)

A new study from UBC Okanagan suggests that the public’s online shopping habits have changed in various ways due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More people are now buying their groceries online, ordering meal plans and using restaurant delivery, according to Mahmudur Fatmi, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering at UBCO.

“Prior to COVID-19, online shopping was largely done by young, well-educated and high-income individuals,” said Fatmi.

Online shopping isn’t new but it increased during the pandemic because of business closures, limited capacities, government and travel restrictions.

Pre-pandemic, the majority of people shopped in-store and went out to dinner more. Famti wonders if consumers will get back to those habits or if shopping and ordering online meals will continue at the rate it’s at.

Famti examined a transportation survey from November 2020 to January 2021, comparing online shopping habits to in-person habits and meal consumption with a number of factors involved including demographic population and accessibility between urban, rural and city cores.

“Our findings suggested that the ‘new normal’ when it comes to shopping will likely look a bit different than pre-pandemic,” said Fatmi.

The research found that people with access to a vehicle are more likely to continue in-person grocery shopping while transit users mostly order their groceries online. Citizens who live in the suburbs are more likely to more online while metropolitans usually go to the store and restaurants. Lower-income people follow the same trends as metropolitans. It was also found that people are less likely to make their dinners at home.

“So many things have changed with the way we lead our lives since the start of the pandemic,” said Fatmi. “Our model showed that people who frequently order food online are also likely to dine-in at the restaurants at a higher frequency, meaning they simply prepare fewer meals at home. And people who frequently purchase their groceries online, are likely to visit grocery stores less frequently.”

Over the course of the pandemic, people’s day-to-day habits have changed and Fatmi questions if these habits will continue over time.

He added that even though it’s early in the study, the findings suggest increased online shopping might increase travel demand instead of decrease because of the need for more freight vehicles on the road. He also calls for the need to have better transportation models and data collection when it comes to the different types of in-person and online shopping habits and policies.

READ MORE: Grocery store workers call refusal to reinstate pandemic pay ‘insulting’

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Jordy Cunningham

About the Author: Jordy Cunningham

Hailing from Ladner, B.C., I have been passionate about sports, especially baseball, since I was young. In 2018, I graduated from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops with a Bachelor of Journalism degree
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