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The impact of Covid on food consumption in France [Research]

INSEE published the figures for consumption in France in 2020, and the least we can say is that the Covid crisis has had visible effects on French food consumption. The French have cooked more, eaten less outside, and drank much more, no doubt to mitigate the psychological impact of confinement.

The impact of Covid on food expenditure in figures

  • meat: +5.2 %
  • bread and cereals: +2.7 %
  • cheese and eggs: +6.3 %
  • fruit and vegetables: +4.2%
  • tea and coffee at home: +7.7 %
  • spirits, liqueurs and aperitifs: +5.3 %
  • beers: +11.1 %
  • quality wines: -11.7 %
  • champagnes: -19.7 %

Food expenditures on the rise

The impact of Covid on food, which was very visible in stores from April 2020, is reflected in French spending. Food spending is up 4.5%, whereas the trend was downward.

All food segments are benefiting from this increase: meat (+5.2%), cheese and eggs (+6.3%), fruits and vegetables (+4.2%). While these increases may seem modest, they must be placed in their historical context, often bearish (spending on meat has been declining for the past 7 years).

The only compartment that suffers a little from the crisis is bread, which only increased by 2.7%, whereas in 2019, it had increased by 2.9%. The French have indeed discovered a passion for “homemade” bread, which is reflected in Google searches that peak between March 22 and April 04, 2020 … before falling like a bellows (see animation below).

recherche google faire son pain en 2020

More alcohol but less partying

The crisis has had a devastating effect on the French morale, who have drowned their sorrows in cheap alcohol. We had already talked here about the spectacular increase in Bag-in-Box sales in 2020. The statistics of the INSEE confirm that 2020 will have been the year of “alcohol to forget.” Spirits and aperitifs grew by 5.3% while they were falling in 2019 by 0.7%, beer purchases increased by 11.1%. On the other hand, the consumption of quality wines and champagnes collapsed by 11.7% and 19.7%, a sign that the French have feasted less with their friends and drank alone less expensive alcohol.

Eating out expenditures plummet

The increase in food purchases by the French must be placed in a broader context. In particular, it is essential to understand how restaurant spending has evolved. We have already analyzed the progression of meal delivery, which is now anchored in many behaviors. The 3 favorite products of the French (pizza, sushi, burgers) have all met the same fate in 2020. This is reflected in the google searches for the terms “pizza delivery,” “sushi delivery,” and “burger delivery,” which were at their highest between March 30 and July 06, 2020.

google searhes evolution for food deliveris during covid

In 2020, French spending on restaurant services had fallen dramatically, never before seen: -32.2%. A chronological analysis of restaurant and meal delivery spending allows us to appreciate how one has been replaced by the other.
The first (strict) containment has reduced restaurant spending to zero (-75.90%) without benefiting meal delivery. The boom in meal delivery is visible from the 1st de-confinement (May 2020), and this spending remained sustained through the end of the year.

covid impact on take away and deliveries


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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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