We have published a new report revealing the impact of COVID-19 on food and drink retail purchasing in Scotland between January and July 2020.
Our data confirmed that we bought more home cooking and meal ingredients including sweet and savoury cooking ingredients, canned goods, dried pasta, rice and pulses during lockdown. This directly corresponds with results from the recently published FSS COVID-19 tracker which showed that in May, 40% of people reported cooking from scratch more often compared to before lockdown. Encouragingly, 29% also reported eating healthy meals more often which aligns with the increased amount of vegetables we bought over lockdown.
However, the data showed that we also bought more biscuits, confectionery and crisps during this time. This is supported by results from the COVID-19 tracker which showed that in May, 44% of people reported snacking on cakes, biscuits, confectionery and savoury snacks more often than before lockdown.
This strong uptick in retail purchases was sustained throughout lockdown when most restaurants and cafes were closed.
FSS’s Chief Executive, Geoff Ogle, said:
“Scotland’s battle with overweight and obesity has been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic, as poor diet is a contributory factor to increased risk of poorer health outcomes from COVID-19. This is in addition to the well-established links between poor diet, obesity and coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
“The increase in vegetable and home cooking ingredients purchased is encouraging, with people reporting that they were cooking more from scratch.
“We need both government and industry to build on these encouraging findings.
“We all deserve an occasional treat and unhealthy snacks can be hard to resist, especially now, but we shouldn’t forget that these types of foods are not needed in our diet. We have seen through the increased purchase of fruit and veg that habit changes are possible even in these tricky times. Cutting back on discretionary foods and building on the shift we have seen around purchase of more fruit and veg would help improve the balance of our diet and lead to better consequential health outcomes.
“As we move through the pandemic, it is essential to assess positive shifts in behaviour so Food Standards Scotland will continue to play its part to ensure people in Scotland have healthier diets. We will collaborate with consumers, government, the food and drink industry and other partners to improve diet in Scotland, move towards healthier living, and sustain that improvement going forward.”
The results also showed that that shoppers bought 44% more food and drink from shops and supermarkets in the week before the national lockdown in March 2020, compared to March 2019.
People in Scotland made fewer trips to stores during lockdown compared to 2019 as we spent more time at home. Overall during lockdown, people in Scotland shopped for food less often and bought more from discounters, smaller retailers and convenience stores than over the same period in 2019.