Impacts of COVID-19 on consumption

Since the beginning of the health crisis, ÉEQ carried out analyses on the impact of COVID-19 on the recycling industry from various aspects. With everyone facing new realities, adapting to change is now constant our day-to-day life. Take a look at the main impacts of COVID-19 on consumer habits in Quebec and Canada.

Food products

In 2019, half the containers, packaging and printed matter placed on the market were from the food products sector. The pandemic led to consumer behaviour changes, in 6 distinct phases:

  • Proactive healthy purchase: Marked interest for health and well-being products.
  • Reactive healthy purchase: Prioritizing essential virus-fighting products.
  • Pantry stock-up: Spike in purchase of extended shelf-life products (an increase of 43% of sales in Quebec between March 14 and 28, 2020).
  • Preparation for quarantine living: Increase in online purchasing and increased stock shortages.
  • Confinement / Restrictions and limits: Restricted number of in-store visits, limited number of online orders and impact on prices for certain products.
  • New normal: Resumption of everyday activities with great caution and permanent changes, such as in the online supply chain.

Result: As of May 23, 2020, Nielsen indicated a YTD increase in sales of 11% compared to 2019 for the food industry, citing the pandemic as responsible for 80% of that growth.

Eco-friendly habits put on hold for health and safety reasons:

  • Increased packaging
  • Closure of bulk item sections
  • Refusal of reusable containers
  • Increase in consumption of single-use products and accessories.

One-stop Shops

In an effort to minimize contacts and adopt to social distancing practices, 69% of Canadians said they were purchasing from stores that offered everything they needed in one single store.

Buying Local

It is without a doubt that the pandemic has reinforced the popularity of local products and brands, a trend which had already been gaining considerable momentum over recent years. The “Panier Bleu” initiative and other referencing platforms also contributed to stimulating local product purchases and further encouraging the trend.

 According to the study titled Consumer behaviour during and after the pandemic conducted by Léger in partnership with lg2, 21% of Canadians bought local products for the first time or more often since the beginning of the crisis, and 99% of them said they would continue doing so.

Economic repercussions

Several businesses had to close their doors for varying lengths of time. The numbers compiled by Statistics Canada are impressive:

  • 75% of Canadians said they spent less than before the pandemic.
  • 93% of Canadians said they don’t go out at all anymore, except to buy essential products.

The restaurant industry has also been hit hard: Restaurants Canada reported that nearly one out of ten independent restaurants had already closed for good and that among those still operating, one out of two didn’t expect to survive if conditions didn’t improve.

Conversely, certain chains saw significant increases due to well-established delivery services, for example.

Alcoholic beverage sales also went up at the beginning of the confinement period. The government’s call to buy local was also felt by the SAQ, who sold 60% more Quebec wines and 79% more Quebec spirits compared to the same date last year. The SAQ also recorded a 200% increase in online sales.

Online Purchases

For many, online purchases have facilitated access to certain essentials. Adviso reported a 118% increase in e-commerce transactions by Quebec consumers compared to the same period in 2019.

According to Nielsen, here are the reasons that pushed Canadians to buy online:

  • 46% did not want to risk going out.
  • 31% did not want to wait in line outside stores.
  • 29% did not want to have contacts with other consumers.
  • 27% wanted to save time.

To read ÉEQ’s full report, click here.