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Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Grocery Retailing: Incl Impact of COVID-19 – Canada market including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

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What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

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Being an act that consumers previously engaged in at least once during a typical week, consumer participation in the category relied heavily on habitual behaviours prior to the pandemic – from the days of the week that people go shopping to the ‘rituals’ they partake in to choose fresh produce. While the pandemic has certainly brought about many challenges for the sector, this is an exciting time for the category as routines have been shaken up, opening up an opportunity for grocery retailers to have a more proactive hand in shaping consumer behaviours moving forward. Importantly, the sector’s responsiveness to protecting the health and safety of consumers while also supporting the broader community will drive consumers to have higher expectations in terms of allowing them to meet their needs in the future.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Carol Wong-Li, a leading analyst in the Retail sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

It is so cliché to use the word unprecedented in 2020, but this truly is an unprecedented time for the grocery sector right now as significant changes are seen in consumer approach to grocery shopping. Before the pandemic, grocery shopping was all about routines and habits, with behaviours practically entrenched making it difficult to change – even when exciting and relevant innovations were introduced. Now, behaviours are indeed changing meaning that grocers can now proactively shape what habits consumers will settle in to. There is urgency as grocers must act now to ensure that these newly adopted habits (like shopping online more) will stick into the longer-term.
Carol Wong-Li
Associate Director Lifestyles & Leisure

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways 
    • Market overview 
    • The economic impact of the pandemic will delay Gen Zs becoming the primary household shopper
    • Seniors are in the spotlight now, and need to be in the future
    • Impact of COVID-19 on the grocery shopping experience
      • Figure 1: Short, medium and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on consumer orientation towards the grocery shopping experience
    • Challenges
    • Consumer approach to grocery shopping has changed, and not for the better
    • Grocery shopping is a much more plan-heavy activity now; grocers need to get in on the pre-purchase process
    • Opportunities
    • Reignite the joy of discovery by taking a cue from the beauty sector to fill in for missing tactile experiences
    • Going online: seniors have arrived, and work needs to be done to keep them there
    • Be a partner in addressing issues they care about
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • Worries about the virus remain high, continuing to impact behaviours
    • The pandemic’s economic impact alters the passing of the ‘primary household shopper’ baton
    • Seniors have entered the spotlight; keep the glow on them
  4. Market Factors

    • Protective behaviours are prevalent now and will impact safety expectations for years to come
      • Figure 2: COVID-19 exposure and life disruption concerns, March 3, 2020-November 5, 2020
    • Adulthood will look different for the next primary household shopper: Gen Zs
    • One in 10 adults are adult Gen Zs
      • Figure 3: Canadian population, by age group, 2019
    • The transition of Gen Zs becoming the next primary household shopper will be prolonged
      • Figure 4: Canadian unemployment rate (monthly), seasonally adjusted, February-October 2020
    • Financial challenges now will alter what adulthood looks like in the years to come
    • Keep the spotlight bright on seniors
      • Figure 5: Population aged 0-14 and over 65, 1995-2035*
  5. Competitive Strategies

    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Wellbeing Trend Driver
    • What’s happening now? Keeping safe is the first priority
      • Figure 6: No Frills Instagram post, May 2020
      • Figure 7: A Cart Apart – A No Frills Track, May 2020
    • What’s next? Protection of health and safety will be an expectation well into the future
      • Figure 8: Non-tech-related health and safety features desired after preventative measures lift, by age, June 2020
      • Figure 9: Summerhill Market Facebook post, November 2020
    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Technology Trend Driver
    • What’s happening now? Consumers are eating up tech innovations that bring convenience and keep them safe
      • Figure 10: Walmart Canada Grocery Pickup – Triplets Commercial 2017, November 2019
      • Figure 11: Walmart Instagram post, May 2020
    • What’s next? Consumers will want more innovations that bring ease and enhance safety
      • Figure 12: Tech-related health and safety features desired after preventative measures lift, by age, June 2020
      • Figure 13: PC Express – The Talk 30sec, May 2019
    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Surroundings Trend Driver
    • What’s happening now? Consumers hold a deeper focus on supporting the community
      • Figure 14: Kraft Peanut butter Instagram post, May 2020
    • What’s next? Consumers will want brands to help them address issues they care about
      • Figure 15: Kraft Heinz Canada Instagram post, October 2020
      • Figure 16: Sobeys Instagram post, January 2020
      • Figure 17: How to Flashfood LIKE A MOTHER, September 2019
      • Figure 18: Real Canadian Superstore Instagram post, October 2019
    • Meeting consumer needs through the lens of the Rights Trend Driver
    • What’s happening now? Specific support of seniors shows a level of basic respect
      • Figure 19: Walmart Instagram post, May 2020
    • What’s next? Continued support for seniors should be a consideration
      • Figure 20: Would like to see dedicated shopping hours for seniors after the COVID-19 preventative measures lift, by age, June 2020
  6. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Engagement with this category is near-universal; catering must be nuanced
    • People aren’t buying groceries as often
    • Consumers are going online, but still mostly reliant on in-store
    • Right now, grocery shopping isn’t as enjoyable
  7. Who is Shopping for Groceries?

    • Virtually all Canadians are grocery shoppers
      • Figure 21: Grocery shopping responsibility, June 2020
    • Think Gen Zs aren’t important yet? Think again
    • More Gen Zs are shopping for groceries than one might think
      • Figure 22: Grocery shopping responsibility of Gen Zs, June 2020
    • The pandemic will play a role in the timing of Gen Zs becoming the primary household shopper
    • The recipe for winning over Gen Zs is to build up food-related skills with fun and community aspects
    • Consider partnering with heritage brands when launching content targeting Gen Z
      • Figure 23: Nespresso Facebook post, June 2020
    • Perceived ownership of the task is at odds between men and women
      • Figure 24: Grocery shopping responsibility, women vs men, June 2020
    • More normalization of men’s contributions to the household (including grocery shopping) is necessary
      • Figure 25: Dove Men+Care Global Channel on Instagram, August 2020
      • Figure 26: Dove Men+Care Global Channel on Instagram, September 2020
      • Figure 27: Little Cooks Co Instagram post, February 2020
      • Figure 28: Classic Oysters Rockefeller, November 2018
      • Figure 29: Jumbleberry Croissant Strata, November 2018
      • Figure 30: Seafood Made Simple: Just cook the bag, September 2015
      • Figure 31: PC Chef Instagram post, October 2020
  8. Grocery Shopping Frequency

    • The cadence in which people are shopping has changed significantly
      • Figure 32: Grocery shopping frequency, 2018 vs 2020, May 2018/June 2020
    • Less frequent trips mean greater attention towards longer-lasting foods
    • Interest in longer-lasting foods bodes well for online grocery shopping
      • Figure 33: ‘I plan to keep stocked up on groceries even after the COVID-19 preventative measures lift’ (% any agree) by those who have shopped for groceries online, June 2020
    • Consider elevating the visibility of longer-lasting foods by pairing them with meaningful value propositions
    • Messaging consideration: bring attention to the inherent cost savings to be had
      • Figure 34: Oxford Wild Blueberries – Little Ones & Better Price, Jan 2018
      • Figure 35: PC Financial | Cake Mix, May 2019
    • Messaging consideration: focus on the time efficiencies gained by using such products
      • Figure 36: Kraft Mac & Cheese Instagram post, August 2020
      • Figure 37: Kraft Mac & Cheese For Breakfast, August 2020
    • A strategy to encourage micro-trips is necessary
    • Gains to be had by targeting Boomer men
      • Figure 38: Grocery shopping frequency, men 55+ vs overall, June 2020
      • Figure 39: ‘I find grocery shopping more stressful now than before the COVID-19 pandemic’ (% any agree), men 55+ vs overall, June 2020
      • Figure 40: Red Wine Chocolate Cake, September 2018
      • Figure 41: Sobeys acquisition email, October 2018
  9. Grocery Shopping Channels

    • Grocery shopping is now an omnichannel endeavour
    • Adoption of online grocery shopping has grown considerably
      • Figure 42: Shopping for groceries online, 2018 vs 2020, May 2018/June 2020
      • Figure 43: Frequency of shopping online for groceries compared to a year ago, June 2020
    • Seven in 10 Canadians are multi-channel grocery shoppers
      • Figure 44: Channels used for grocery shopping in the past month, June 2020
    • Surprise! Even seniors are on board as multi-channel shoppers
      • Figure 45: Channels used for grocery shopping in the past month, 65+ vs overall, June 2020
      • Figure 46: Shopping online more for groceries compared to a year ago and likelihood to continue to shopping online in the long term, 65+ vs overall June 2020
    • Consider featuring products with smaller packaging and serving sizes
      • Figure 47: Bodega Santa Julia Facebook post, July 2020
      • Figure 48: New Planters Pop & Pour, June 2020
    • Consider bringing more experiential elements to life
      • Figure 49: Gardening with Edibles Facebook Live | Episode 4, November 2020
      • Figure 50: National Parks Board Instagram post, September 2020
  10. The Current Grocery Shopping Experience

    • Don’t doddle, the grocery shopping experience has changed
    • The evolution of the consumer mindset towards grocery shopping
      • Figure 51: Short, medium and longer-term impact of COVID-19 on consumer orientation towards the grocery shopping experience
    • Quick actions from the grocery retailing sector have been noticed by consumers
    • Continued uncertainty drives protective behaviours that hamper discovery
      • Figure 52: Current perception and approach to grocery shopping (% any agree), June 2020
    • Reactivating the act of discovery
    • Consider ways to filling in the gaps from the now lacking tactile experiences
    • Additional online resources can be a beautiful thing – Following the footsteps of beauty retailing
      • Figure 53: Grazia UK Instagram post, September 2020
    • Be proactive about helping consumers improve shopping efficiency
      • Figure 54: Tech-related health and safety features desired after preventative measures lift, by age, June 2020
    • Consider taking a cue from communication patterns of younger consumers to provide support
    • Getting better integrated with the planning process has never been more important
    • Focusing on more interactive resources will be more effective than continuing to tap into static ones
    • Consider partnerships with more commonly used resources for ideas
      • Figure 55: Allrecipes Instagram post, November 2020
    • Partnerships with tech-enhanced time-saving kitchen appliances will appeal to moms
      • Figure 56: Current perception and approach to grocery shopping (% any agree), by gender, June 2020
      • Figure 57: Instant Pot Pho Chicken Noodle Soup, March 2019
  11. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations
    • Terms

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