Göttingen University research team investigates behaviour and attitudes of consumers in Germany during the different phases of the coronavirus pandemic
Researchers at the University of Göttingen have been conducting a nationwide consumer survey since mid-April to find out how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting shopping, eating and cooking behaviour. In mid-June, at a time of low infection rates and increasing relaxation of pandemic-related restrictions in Germany, the same consumers were surveyed again. A comparison of the data shows partly a return to behaviour patterns back to the levels before the pandemic. People cooked less at home, but started to go shopping more frequently again. Other aspects remained stable, such as the increased importance of sustainability in food choices and the increased preference for regional agricultural produce. The results have been published in a discussion paper at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at the University of Göttingen.
The research is being carried out as a -panel study- which means that only those who had already taken part in the first survey in April 2020 were invited to the second survey in June. In total, the answers of 603 respondents were included in the analysis. The sample is representative of the German population in terms of age, gender, income, education and geographical distribution. A third survey will follow later in the course of the pandemic. The second survey also included questions on food service industry, household stockpiling and working conditions in the meat industry.
A new finding is an increased price awareness of the respondents. 28 percent of those surveyed said they spent more money on food during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 40 percent said that they pay more attention to special offers and 30 percent that they buy more low-priced food. "One possible explanation is the shift from eating-out to eating at home, which is why many people are more aware of spending more money when grocery shopping," first author Dr Gesa Busch comments on the figures. "It was also surprising that, despite the experience of empty supermarket shelves at the beginning of the pandemic, only about 44 percent of those surveyed had over ten days- worth of household supplies at home.- Trust in food security is still very high among most people.
A glance at food service industry shows that those surveyed are reluctant to resume eating-out. In mid-June, only a third had visited a catering establishment again. However, half of the respondents see a need to support the catering industry by visiting. "All in all, a difficult future is looming on the horizon, especially for the traditional food service industry," says Professor Achim Spiller, Head of Marketing for Food and Agricultural Products at the University of Göttingen.
"For the meat industry, however, our study shows even stronger signs of crisis," said Spiller. The corona outbreaks in meat-processing companies have drawn the attention of society and politicians to the working conditions of the employees there. When asked about different aspects of working conditions in slaughterhouses, the respondents rated them without exception as negative. No difference can be found between the aspects directly related to coronavirus outbreaks, such as the risk of infection, or general aspects, such as the high workload. It seems that the coronavirus outbreaks have once again had a broad negative impact on the already poor image of the meat industry.
The discussion paper for the second-wave survey in June can be found at www.uni-goettingen.de/de/630853.html
The discussion paper for the first-wave survey in April can be found at www.uni-goettingen.de/de/625255.html
Original publication: Gesa Busch et al. Einkaufsund Ernährungsverhalten sowie Resilienz des Ernährungssystems aus Sicht der Bevölkerung: Eine Studie während der Corona-Pandemie im Juni 2020. Ergebnisse der zweiten Befragungswelle. Diskussionsbeitrag Nr. 2004 des Departments für Agrarökonomie und Rurale Entwicklung der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, September 2020.
Dr Gesa Busch
University of Göttingen
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development
Marketing for Food and Agricultural Products