Has Covid-19 been the catalyst for new health and lifestyle trends?

Sylvia Jeanes
Shopper Insight Manager

Date : 14 September 2020

One month after lockdown our health tracking recorded that more than four in ten shoppers (41% in April 2020) stated that they almost/mostly eat healthy food and drink and that 89% are actively trying to improve their diet in some way.  But how has this been impacted by COVID-19, when how we buy, prepare, eat and even value food changed for us all?

Shopper’s aspire to be healthy, but it doesn’t always translate into action

During August, we have been asking British shoppers if their behaviour changed as a result of the pandemic and which health habits they are intending to stick with in the future.

At the start of lockdown, we all could only leave the house to undertake one form of exercise each day. As schools closed, Joe Wicks, the fitness coach became a household name for streaming free workouts aimed at children to provide ‘PE with Joe’.   So, did lockdown kickstart new exercise regimes for shoppers?

In August, just over a third of shoppers were inspired to change their exercise regime with 34% agreeing that they had exercised more since lockdown began, however on the flip side, almost the same proportion agreed they had exercised less (31%).  But interestingly, when asked about their future health intentions, almost one in two shoppers were aspiring to continue exercising at home (49%) to maintain their exercise regime (ShopperVista August 2020). 

This dichotomy continued when we asked shoppers about changes to their diet, 37% claimed they hadn’t made changes to their diet during lockdown, but a third agreed they had made dietary changes (32%) with nearly a third undecided (31%).   However, the appetite for change was evident when shoppers were asked about their future health intentions, with more than half (55%) agreeing ‘I will make a change or changes to my diet for the better’, ranked as the top health future change that shoppers stated would stick (ShopperVista, August 2020).

But maintaining healthy diets can prove a challenge for some. In our previous research we explored shoppers’ attitude to health and their health priorities as part of our four part deep dive into health. 57% of shoppers agreed that they tried to be healthy but found it hard (July’2019). The top barriers to being healthy were cited as ‘lack motivation’ (55%) and ‘too expensive’ (45%). 

Base: 1,080, all shoppers who try to be healthy but find it hard, July 2019

Younger shoppers were more likely to cite cost as a barrier (51% aged 18-24), along with a lack of time (50% aged 18-24). (ShopperVista July 2019)

As we are officially in recession, balancing healthy eating with savvy shopping will pose a challenge for many shoppers and offers an opportunity to drive health through more value-oriented propositions.

Shoppers seek health shortcuts

Despite there being a gap between aspiration and action for some, there is an opportunity to narrow this by supporting shoppers and making it as easy as possible for them to achieve their goals.  This could be offering easy solutions, in-store sign posting or providing nutritional information to enable healthy choices.

A fifth of shoppers (21%) claimed to have taken more vitamins and supplements during lockdown (August 2020).  Our recent health, nutrition and ethics tracking found that when choosing which items to buy two thirds of shoppers placed importance on ‘adding ingredients to make them healthier’ (66% in July 2020 compared to 60% the previous year) and 80% stated the importance of removing ingredients to make them healthier in July 2020, up from 73% in July 2019, suggesting shoppers are seeking shortcuts to health.

So, looking to the future to predict what health habits shoppers think they will stick with, the good news is that shoppers do aspire to change; more than half of shoppers intend to change their diet and choose healthier foods, but the challenge is to make it as easy and personalised as possible to be aligned with their individual health needs.

Which shopper health habits are likely to stick?


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