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Numerator Launches COVID Buyer Habit Index

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Numerator used six repeat purchases by year-end 2020, following a first-time purchase in March-April 2020 to qualify as habits.

Data and tech company Numerator has launched a COVID Buyer Habit Index to understand the stickiness of new consumer buying behaviors formed during COVID-19. The analysis examines seven FMCG categories (Alcohol, Baking & Cooking, Beverages, Meat, Snacks, Personal Care and Vitamins & Supplements) to identify which categories were more habit-forming in 2020 vs. 2019.

The index compares repeat purchase behavior of new category buyers during the height of COVID-19 panic buying (March - April 2020) to new buyers in the same period in 2019. Numerator used six repeat purchases by year-end 2020, following a first-time purchase in March-April 2020 to qualify as habits.

New Buyers are defined as having purchased a given product/category for the first time in six-plus months during the focus period (March - April 2020). New Habit Formers are a subset of New Buyers and have repurchased the category in six or more of the remaining months in the post-period (May - December 2020). The New Habit Index is calculated as the percentage of New Buyers who formed habits in 2020 versus the percentage who formed habits during 2019.

"Consumers radically changed buying behaviors during COVID,” says Eric Belcher, chief executive officer, Numerator. “Brands and retailers need to understand which new COVID behaviors solidified into habits that are likely to persist post COVID. This is important to define reopening strategies from marketing through inventory management."

Key category findings include:

  • Alcohol: New alcohol buyers were more likely to have continued to buy alcohol throughout 2020 than new alcohol buyers in 2019, boosted by widespread bar and restaurant closures. Wine was the most "sticky" alcohol category, with 2020 new buyers 66 percent more likely to have repurchased the category in six or more of the remaining months of the year (vs 2019), followed by Beer (45 percent) and Spirits (42 percent);
  • Baking & Cooking: "Baking from scratch" became a habit: Raw baking materials were far more likely to be sticky in 2020 with Baking Ingredients and Flours & Blends indexing at 149 and 133 versus Baking Mixes at 116. One notable exception is Yeast & Leaveners which indexed at 32;
  • Beverages: New Soft Drink buyers were 29 percent more likely to have formed a habit vs. 2019 new buyers, with a COVID-driven shift from out-of-home to in-home consumption. The Sports & Energy Drinks Habit Index was 111. Kombucha was less habit forming in 2020 vs. prior year, with new drinkers 22 percent less likely to have formed a habit;
  • Meat: Seafood was more habit-driving in 2020 than in years past, with Fresh Seafood indexing at 178 and new Frozen Seafood at 114. Beef and Frozen Meat new buyers were more likely to have formed a habit during the pandemic as well, with 2020 buyers 18 percent and 17 percent more likely to have formed a habit in 2020 vs. 2019. Despite gaining traction in the past few years, Meat Alternatives new buyers were slightly less likely (-7 percent) to have formed a habit in 2020 vs. 2019;
  • Snacks: Snack Mixes and Meat Snacks were slightly more likely to be habit-forming in 2020 at 13 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Healthier snacks were slightly less likely to be habit-forming (Popcorn -4 percent, Nutrition & Wholesome -6 percent, Puffed Snacks -7 percent, Pea/Bean/Vegetable Snacks -18 percent);
  • Personal Care: In certain personal care categories, consumers appear to have adapted to self-service, opening the door to lasting habits. New Hair Color buyers were far more likely (129 percent) to have stuck in the category, along with new Nail Color buyers (72 percent); and
  • Vitamins & Supplements: Vitamin Letters (121 percent) and Immunity (60 percent) supplements led the way as consumers looked for ways to stay healthy throughout the pandemic.
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