Category Partners conducted a survey to provide some insight into how shoppers are changing their buying amid COVID-19. ( Category Partners )

A 2,000-person survey by Category Partners reveals some of the ways consumers are changing what they’re buying and how they’re navigating stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just over 50% of respondents said they are purchasing more frozen foods and center-store items due to coronavirus, while roughly 40% said they are buying more fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh meat and dairy for the same reason. On the flip side, roughly 20% said they were buying less fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh meat.

Overall, the vast majority of consumers appear to be buying the same amount of fresh produce and meat or more amid the coronavirus crisis, according to Category Partners.

The firm found that shoppers 45 and younger in particular tend to be buying more fresh produce and other fresh items.

“This increase in food purchases among younger consumers makes sense,” Cara Ammon, senior vice president of research and market intel for Category Partners, said in a news release. “Many are now working from home, or unfortunately are at home due to furlough, and many may have children home from school.

“Families have gone from eating lunches and even breakfasts at work and school and eating many dinners on the run to eating all of their meals at home,” Ammon said. “That makes a huge difference in their grocery purchases.”

The firm’s survey also indicated a shift toward packaged items, with 46% of respondents saying they are buying more packaged items and 25% of respondents saying they are avoiding loose items. More than 40% report avoiding self-service items like products from salad bars or soup bars, and 35% say they are avoiding products requiring store staff to handle the food.

Thirty-six percent of respondents noted they are using self-checkout more often.

“Consumers have made significant changes to just about every aspect of their grocery shopping behavior,” Ammon said. “It will be interesting to see how many of these changes continue once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Some of these shopping behaviors may be here to stay.”

She noted that determining what consumers want at grocery retail will continue to be a moving target but that it is one worth pursuing.

“The lockdowns will end, the health crisis will abate, and consumers will have in-store and restaurant options once again,” Ammon said. “The larger economic pressures will linger a bit longer. The value to retailers and suppliers in being prepared to understand and offer solutions these consumers seek and need cannot be understated.”

See our COVID-19 landing page for more articles on how the coronavirus crisis is affecting the produce industry and how the industry is responding.