The world’s 2020 pandemic FMCG shopping habits

Our new ‘Winning Omnichannel’ report finds the UK is the western market with the highest rate of ecommerce in the FMCG sector.
21 April 2021
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Fraser  McKevitt

Head of Retail and Consumer Insight, Worldpanel Division, UK

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The global grocery sector grew an unprecedented 10% globally in 2020, compared to 2.5% growth in 2019, as the COVID-19 pandemic transformed how we live our lives.

Our Winning Omnichannel report summarises the actual shopping trips of more than a million shoppers globally, representing the behaviours of 5 billion people (66% of the world population) and 83% of global GDP.

The report finds:

  • Food purchases increased 11.4% as households catered for more meals at home.
  • Homecare products sales increased by 9.8% as we increased our focus on hygiene and cleanliness to stay safe.
  • With the lack of social interaction, the Health & Beauty sector declined by 0.1% year on year compared to being the fastest growing sector in 2019. With the importance of hand washing, Hand & Body Wash sales accelerated from 6% to 16% growth.
  • Ecommerce sales increased by 45.5% as more households pivoted towards online grocery shopping. Ecommerce now accounts for 6.5% of grocery sales globally.
  • The US was the fastest growing market (14%), followed by Western Europe (11.2%), Latam (10.1%), Eastern Europe (6.6%) and Asia (3.1%).
  • Despite In-Home FMCG sales hitting 10% in 2020, combining sales for both Out-of-Home (OOH) and In-Home, shows a decline of between 2 to 5% for the food and beverages (excluding alcohol) sectors.

Beverages, Dairy & Food, which accounted for 74% of FMCG value in 2019, grew at 8.6%, 10.3% and 11.4%, respectively, with out-of-home consumption moving in-home throughout most of 2020. Fifteen of the top 20 categories most positively impacted by COVID-19 came from these sectors. Growth in Sugar & Sweeteners, Herbs & Seasonings, and Olive Oil sales showcases the increase in scratch cooking and home baking seen in 2020.

As 2020 forced us out of bars and restaurants, alcohol sales saw an uplift, growing 11% compared to 2% growth in 2019 (across Latam, Western Europe and Asia).  Western Europe and Latin America had growth of 25% and 20% respectively, while Asians were more sober in their approach to the pandemic with sales falling 10% in 2020 compared to 2019.

Top 10 Growth categories based on positive COVID-19 impact

2020 has been a transformational year for FMCG. When we calculated our early forecasts in 2019 – before COVID-19 existed – we expected a continuation of FMCG growth close to 2.5%. From the stockpiling in Q1 to the continued shift of out-of-home consumption to in-home through the rest of the year and the lack of face-to-face social interactions, the impacts were felt across regions, countries, channels, sectors and categories. This environment has highlighted the importance of adapting to the unknown to find new growth opportunities. Whilst FMCG has benefited from the pandemic, no growth is ever constantly reliable, highlighting the importance of understanding evolving consumer trends and behaviours and adapting to them.

Ecommerce doubled its growth

The pandemic has accelerated ecommerce growth in almost all markets. An additional 5% of global households bought their grocery shopping online at least once in 2020 – which is equal to an additional 67m households. In 2019, ecommerce represented a 4.9% share of grocery shopping; in 2020, with growth of 45.5% this increased to 6.5% of global grocery sales. For comparison, ecommerce growth in 2019 was 18.9%.

The strongest growth was seen in Asian markets; 25% of grocery shopping in China and South Korea happened online, with increases of 6.4 percentage points and 3.3 percentage points, respectively. The UK is the western market with the highest rate of ecommerce in the FMCG sector at 11.4%. In every other western market, ecommerce is in the single digits, including just 4.1% in the US, illustrating the enormous headroom for growth.

Ecommerce channel as a share of total FMCG sales

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