COVID-19 is Changing Consumer Behaviour with Long Term Consequences: More Mindful Shopping & Awareness of Healthy, More Sustainable Diet

Clearly, people’s lives have slowed down during the lockdown, and so people have had the chance to rethink how they walk through life – and how they walk through the grocery store. Impulsive and ‘on the go’ shopping and eating has been replaced by more cooking at home and carefully planned weekly shopping trips. So too, the choices on that weekly shopping trip are more clearly based on people’s core values and not only what is on special offer this week, such as:

  • Health and nutrition – feeding the family with a greater focus on healthier options with a 14% rise in plant-based products in our basket
  • Brand values – in a growing importance for the sustainable and community stories behind the brands

These habits have shown to be similar across many countries in northern Europe, as the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. But Germany differs in how the government is easing up restrictions way before its neighbouring countries. Therefore, it is an interesting example to see which trends could stick around even after the restrictions are lifted and grocery stores do away with queues outside the supermarkets and corner shops.

In other words: what is the new normal for consumers after the corona crisis is over?

Life has slowed down, and cooking does not only mean ‘making food’ anymore

The sudden forced lockdown and incapability to keep rushing through the daily routine made many people aware of their compulsive shopping behaviours. Especially to-go food turns out to be expensive, less healthy and unsustainable. The possibility to stay at home and to rethink where the time and money go has brought many people back to think about their health and the possible consequences of their purchasing behaviour for the environment.

One example is the increased trend of cooking at home. This means being in full control of the food consumption, because preparing ‘fresh’ meals provides consumers with the opportunity to ensure they know exactly which ingredients they use and where they come from.

A study by Hans Lohmann Foundation in Germany explains how people were drastically forced to rely on their own culinary skills now that the offerings of restaurants, snack bars and the Italian restaurant around the corner were not an option anymore.

Dagmar von Cramm, a member of the foundation, states that coronavirus has changed the cooking behaviour of consumers for good. The results of the study have been surprising, as news of empty freezers and shelves with instant food products made them fear the worst at the beginning of the crisis. Instead, the survey results revealed that consumers had cooked more often in recent weeks than in the time before coronavirus.

“And cooking does not mean ‘making food” – the expert explains the difference between defrosting and reheating convenience food and processing fresh and natural food into a proper dish.

Healthy products in the spotlight: Customers are looking more closely at their diets and supermarkets are super interested in extending their range of plant-based products

Being forced to plan their weekly food consumption more carefully and doing more home cooking is encouraging consumers to think about the ingredients they use. The result is a surge in interest for healthy food products that boost the immune system, such as the so-called functional foods.

The term ‘immunity’ in relation to food searches has increased by 27 percent between February last year and March of 2019, as reported by food intelligence startup Tastewise. Organic food, plant-based food and nutritional supplements seem to fall within this category, which is probably why they received a boost in sales as well.

The reason seems to be consumers’ enhanced awareness of the importance of nutrition in regard to maintaining themselves healthy. Given the lack of pesticides and agro-chemicals in the field of organic agriculture, consumers consider it to be safer and more nutritious than conventional food.

This trend is also being felt in the Netherlands, as Brad Vanstone from plant-based cheese brand Willicroft in Amsterdam points out: “We don’t have any hard data here but the fact we’ve had an increase in sales since COVID started which is some proof that customers are looking closer at their diets than before. We’ve also noticed that supermarkets are super interested in extending their range of plant-based products.”

According to estimates from the ProVeg, about 2,000 vegetarians and 200 vegans are added daily to the German population, and also here it is mentioned that more and more medical professionals and nutritionists are recognizing the health benefits of a vegan-vegetarian diet in the prevention and treatment of diseases.

Sustainable products in the spotlight: changes in purchasing behavior become more sustainable with each week of crisis

Another reason could be the incentive of consumers to allocate their purchasing money with companies that they believe have an intention to contribute to a more sustainable future. A survey from the strategy consultancy Oliver Wyman amongst 9000 consumers of nine federal districts shows the corona crisis will permanently change the shopping behaviour of 40 percent of German consumers in regard to more sustainable shopping.

“We assume that the changes in purchasing behavior become more sustainable with each week of crisis” says Wyman retail expert Rainer Münch, referring to the fact that consumers are clearly buying less frequently, but probably with a higher appreciation and care for whom they buy from. Consumers are also prepared to spend more money on food, despite the lower household incomes, as a quarter of the respondents stated.

Mike Hill, co-founder of the multi-award winning vegan pizza manufacturer One Planet Pizza affirms the same for the UK: ” Since the start of the pandemic we have noticed an increase in sales via both our retail channels and our own Direct to Consumer service. Part of this I’m sure is that ‘conscious consumers’ are making even more purchases from ethical and environmentally friendly brands that have put sustainability at the heart of what they do. The lockdown and ‘slowing down’ of people’s lives, seems to have encouraged people to think more about the environment and in some cases get closer to nature, raising people’s awareness of sustainability issues.”

Sustainability is one of the major megatrends par excellence, as market researchers from Facit Research published on May 26 in the German magazine ‘Food Praxis’ (Lebensmittel Praxis). 43 percent of respondents are eager to take compromises for sustainable products, for example in terms of colour and shape. For one third it is important that food is produced sustainably throughout all production steps.

Brands that have been working on the transparency of their product supply chain therefore experience the positive results for their engagement. Andrew Field, co-founder of Humble Warrior in the UK notes the same: “C19 has thrown our consumption habits into the spotlight and consumers are resetting their priorities. But the shift to living more sustainably is not new. What we are seeing now is really just an acceleration of that shift. Online buying means people can access more information about brands than ever before, so they’re more informed before making a purchase. That’s a big change for brands. People want to see their brands back up claims and be transparent about their supply chain. That’s always been a priority for us – so we know our growers personally, we bottle in glass and donate 2% of every bottle to charity. Since lockdown, we’ve seen a 500% uplift in online sales at humble warrior, with returning customers up 35%.”

His words align with the statement from German food expert Tanja Boga in an interview with the LP magazine. As she finds, retailers and manufacturers must develop a clear stance on sustainability and translate this into a consistent strategy and communication. The communication must be comprehensible, credible and transparent. As for their products, the following applies: free of harmful chemicals and as little packaging as possible.

Life has slowed down, and so has our shopping behaviour: Quality matters over quantity

Consumers appear willing to spend a price premium for food that enhances the qualities of personal immunity and/or businesses that put it at their core to fight for a sustainable cause – and this behaviour is likely to stick even after the pandemic is over. As our comparison to countries as the UK and the Netherlands shows, this trend is not only applicable to German consumers, but it might count for countries with similar economies, as Austria, Switzerland and Scandinavia.

On the other side, the economic depression we are facing in Europe is likely to have an impact on the spending power of consumers. In a study from the GfK “COVID-19 Consumer Pulse Study” one in five respondents in Germany fears for their job or has already lost it. This leads to a paradox in shopping behaviour, as people want to buy more expensive products while wanting to spend less money.

The outcome is to look for more value when shopping. Shopping habits are changing towards less frequent visits to the supermarket, but rather more prepared ones. Consumers are being more quality conscious when it comes to the purchase of food, but there is also an incentive to pay more for the products that are perceived of higher quality.

It can be said that ‘mindful’ shopping is the result of these challenging times. There have been signs of emerging awareness for health and the environment in previous years, but out of this crisis situation the necessity has emerged for active and immediate change towards the shopping behaviour of consumers.

This could be the most important and long-lasting change to prevail after the cease of Covid-19 pandemic.

Source: Vegconomist

Korean-style Fried Cauliflower


2 cups cauliflower florets, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch pieces
4 tsps rice flour
1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp coarse salt
pinch ground black pepper
1/2 cup rice flour batter (1 cup rice flour + 3/4 cup warm water + 2 tsp salt)
1/2 cup Korean chili sauce
1/2 tsp green onions, sliced 1/8-inch
1/8 tsp lime zest, minced
1/8 tsp black/white sesame seeds
1 lime wedge
your favourite ranch dressing


  1. Place the cauliflower pieces, rice flour, baking powder, salt and pepper (pinch) into a small mixing bowl and toss to incorporate. Do not discard any excess flour.
  2. Add the rice flour batter and fold to incorporate.
  3. Deep-fry the cauliflower at 350ºF until golden brown and crispy (about 4 minutes). Drain and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Heat the Korean chili sauce in a non-stick sauté pan set over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  5. Add the cauliflower into the pan. Toss to combine.
  6. Remove the cauliflower to serving bowl.
  7. Sprinkle the green onion, lime zest and sesame seeds over the cauliflower.
  8. Serve with ranch dressing and the lime wedge on the side.

Makes 2 servings.

Source: The Cheesecake Factory

What’s for Lunch?

Vegetarian Set-lunch at Lotus Vegecafe in Toyohashi, Japan

The main course of the day is Veggie Meat Skewer.

An Aspirin a Day Keeps the Bowel Doctor Away

A regular dose of aspirin to reduce the risk of inherited bowel cancer lasts at least 10 years after stopping treatment, research has revealed.

The international trial – known as CAPP2 – involved patients with Lynch syndrome from around the world and revealed that two aspirins a day, for an average of two and a half years, reduced the rate of bowel cancer by half.

The study, led by experts at the Universities of Newcastle and Leeds, published in The Lancet today, is a planned double blind 10 year follow–up, supplemented in more than half of recruits with comprehensive national cancer registry data for up to 20 years.

Supports national guidance

The findings of the study further strengthens the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommendation on taking daily aspirin for those at high risk and supports wider use of aspirin to prevent cancer.

Based on the preliminary five year data from the CAPP2 trial, NICE recommended that aspirin should be offered for the prevention of bowel cancer in adults with Lynch syndrome.

Professor Sir John Burn, from Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who led the research, said the new findings further support this important guidance.

He said: “I had an idea 30 years ago that people with a genetic predisposition to colon cancer could help us to test whether aspirin really could reduce the risk of cancer.

“Patients with Lynch syndrome are high risk and this offered statistical power to use cancer as an endpoint – they are like the canaries in the mine who warned the miners that there was gas.

“It took a long time to start the trial and to recruit enough people in 16 countries, but this study has finally given us an answer.

“Two aspirins a day for a couple of years gives protection that lasts more than 10 years and the statistical analysis has become much stronger with time.

“For people at high cancer risk, the benefits are clear – aspirin works. Our new international trial, CaPP3, will see if smaller doses work just as well.”

Findings showed that when all original recruits were included in the study, those on aspirin had 42% fewer colon cancers. Among those who took the aspirin for a full two years, there were 50% fewer colon cancers.

The study involved 861 patients with Lynch syndrome, which affects about one in 200 people in the population. These people have a genetic problem with DNA repair, making them at much higher risk of cancers such as bowel and womb.

A group of 427 were randomised to aspirin continuously for two years and 434 were allocated to a placebo and then they were all followed for 10 years. Out of those given two aspirins each day (600mg) there were 18 fewer colon cancers, representing a drop of 42.6%.

When all 163 Lynch syndrome cancers are included in the analysis – such as cancer of the endometrium or womb – there was an overall reduced risk of cancer of 24% in those taking aspirin, or 37% in those who took aspirin for the full two years.

Historic background

Between 1999 and 2005 participants began either taking two aspirins every day for two years or a placebo.

At the end of the treatment stage in 2007 there was no overall difference between those who had taken aspirin and those who had not. However, the research team anticipated a longer term effect and designed the study for continued follow-up.

By 2010 there had been 19 new bowel cancers among those who had received aspirin and 34 among those on placebo. The incidence of cancer among the group who had taken aspirin had halved – and the effect began to be seen five years after patients starting taking the aspirin.

Professor Sir John said: “Aspirin has a major preventative effect on cancer but this doesn’t become apparent until at least four years later. With the help of these dedicated volunteers we have learned something of value to us all.

“Before anyone begins to take aspirin on a regular basis they should consult their doctor first as aspirin is known to bring with it a risk of stomach complaints, including ulcers and bleeding.

“However, if there is a strong family history of cancer then people may want to weigh up the cost and health benefits of taking aspirin for at least two years.”

The team are now leading a new international trial, CaPP3, with more than 1,800 people with Lynch syndrome enrolled to look at whether smaller, safer doses of aspirin can be used to help reduce the cancer risk.

Source: Newcastle University

Can Talk Therapy Heal the Body, Too?

Alan Mozes wrote . . . . . . . . .

Therapy designed to address mental health issues may also tamp down chronic inflammation, a new review suggests.

In so doing, interventions like behavioral therapy may help to rein in not only anxiety, depression and stress, but also the risk of developing heart disease or cancer, researchers say.

The finding is based on a look at 56 studies that collectively involved more than 4,000 participants.

“Over the past several years, there has been a growing appreciation that inflammation is involved in many of the serious health problems that people experience,” said study author George Slavich.

“These conditions include mental health problems, such as anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, as well as physical health problems, such as asthma, heart disease, certain cancers, and autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders,” added Slavich. He’s an associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Inflammation can also cause molecular damage that accelerates biological aging. “It is a process that may be very important for understanding human health and longevity,” Slavich added.

Drugs that help control inflammation are effective, said Slavich, but they can be expensive, require long-term adherence and often entail side effects.

The review panel hoped to better understand how the body reacts to nondrug treatments for chronic inflammation. The researchers targeted the potential anti-inflammatory benefits of several individual and group therapy approaches, including cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), CBT combined with medication, grief counseling, bereavement support and psychotherapy.

Together, said Slavich, the studies revealed that patients who undergo some form of psychotherapeutic treatment can see a nearly 15% improvement in beneficial immune system function, and an 18% decrease in harmful immune system function.

Those benefits, he said, appear to last for at least six months after therapy concludes, regardless of a patient’s age or gender.

CBT was found to be the most beneficial, in this regard. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), CBT is designed to help patients change thinking patterns that contribute to unhelpful behavior.

The investigators also observed that psychotherapy — and CBT in particular — tended to control inflammation-causing immune system molecules called cytokines.

Such molecules can be helpful in battling disease and infections. But if cytokine levels stay high, even in the absence of a disease threat, they can themselves become the problem, triggering inflammation and related chronic illnesses.

But why would mental health therapy have these effects? Slavich said there are likely many factors at play.

“Several different processes have been previously shown to be associated with changes in immune system function, including life stress, threat sensitivity, negative emotions and social support,” he explained. “In addition, psychotherapy has the potential to change people’s physical activity levels, diet, sleep schedule and so forth.”

However, since the present study was not designed to test these different possibilities, future research is needed to shed light on this issue, Slavich said.

Yet the finding of a link between mental health treatment and reduced inflammation makes sense to Dr. Jon Levenson, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.

“It is not surprising that counseling or psychotherapy is associated with positive changes in immune function,” he said, given prior observations that chronic stress driven by anxiety or depression is associated with an uptick in inflammatory processes.

By cutting down on stress, anxiety and depression, it appears that psychotherapeutic treatment “can essentially re-regulate immune function, once the underlying psychiatric condition is treated,” said Levenson, who is also past chair of the APA’s Council on Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.

But as to how and why there is an association, he agreed that more research will be needed as “we do not know the precise mechanism for this change yet.”

The study findings were published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

Source: HealthDay

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