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Pandemic impact on shopping habits waning, but focus on healthy living and sustainability continues

Health and wellness shopping is here to stay

As the first full quarter without covid restrictions in place comes to a close, search data from retail buyers shows that consumer buying habits have fundamentally changed – however, for the first time since the pandemic began, there is a return to cyclical shopping habits.

Analysing data from more than 15,000 retail buyers and some 200,000 suppliers, online retail platform RangeMe has found that the pandemic is still affecting purchases, but things are moving away from Work from Home purchases towards a more self-care and self-improvement focus.

In the US, searches were up for products within the CBD sector and an increase in searches for “spa” and “vegan” as consumers look to prioritise their health. In the UK, health was also a focus along with “ice cream” following a prolonged warm spell in Q1, and both markets saw searches for “water” trending higher.

Water, as a category, includes a range of products and taps into consumers’ increased focus on personal health. Beyond the drinking water market, which includes purified and ultra-purified bottled water, forecasts revenues of $509.2 billion by 2030.

RangeMe’s data included searches for healthy alternatives to sugary drinks. The sparkling water segment alone is projected to register the fastest growth rate of 7.4% from 2022 to 2030. Popular water trends include coconut, cucumber, and cactus water, and searches for plastic container alternatives also rose.

Continuing the personal health focus within the water segment, health and beauty care products include water-based skincare that hydrate and refresh the skin including rose water and jasmine water face mists, and micellar water.

Seasonality played a big role in Q1, with Valentines, Easter and other Holiday purchases falling within this period. There is no surprise that searches for sweets and candy were up as retailers prepared for a busy treat buying period. In the US, vegan chocolate demand was up 11.7% in 2021, according to NielsenIQ, and even the big suppliers like Caroboo and Divine in the UK are choosing to release more animal-free chocolate products.

Finally, the pandemic has had a lasting impact on almost all categories in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry, and the toy category is one of them. The global market for toys is projected to grow from $141 billion in 2021 to $230 billion by 2028. The extra time spent at home and homeschooling led to parents looking for ways to entertain their kids. This interest in more holistic home entertainment seems to have remained and corporate social responsibility (CSR) factors have created a movement in the toy space to diversify assortment to be more inclusive, such as skin tone and gender-neutral toys.

Sustainability also plays a large part in what kind of toys retail buyers are looking for, like wooden toys, which were popular among buyers in the UK and Netherlands in Q1. Other eco-friendly materials included bamboo, clay, cork, and even recycled plastic to minimize waste dumped in landfills.

“It’s reassuring to see trends developing as we move on from the pandemic restrictions such as more seasonal impacted purchasing. It’s equally interesting to see the behaviours that remain, such as more focus on health, self-improvement, sustainability, and holistic home entertainment for kids,” says Nicky Jackson, CEO and founder of RangeMe. “In our end-of-year report we predicted that Conscientiousness would play an important role in this years’ trends which we see developing. We also predicted that consumers wouldn’t stand for greenwashing, expect diversity and inclusion as standard, and would buy from trustworthy sources. Our report shows increases in searches for products with certifications that match this.”

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