Conducted in December 2020, the online research surveyed 1,013 respondents in the UAE, representing the adult population.
It was part of a larger survey conducted across 17 countries in Asia, Middle East, Europe and US comprising 18,966 respondents.
It was found that 58% of UAE consumer surveyed increased their consumption of fruits and vegetables, 39% increase in dairy items such as milk, cheese, butter, and 35% increase in baked goods including fresh and packaged bread.
Compared to the global average, 38% of consumers say they eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, 24% more for dairy and 22% for baked goods.
In UAE, other food categories that saw slight increases include cupboard items such as tinned or jarred items, rice, pasta, as well as frozen foods and chilled ready meals. In places like Hong Kong and Mexico, there was significantly greater increases in cupboard food consumption.
Imran Ahmed, associate director, data products at YouGov, told FoodNavigator-Asia: “The UAE did a remarkable job at ensuring the availability of fresh food items was minimally disrupted during the pandemic largely avoiding the panic buying for long-lasting items seen in other markets.”
“As the Government were able to demonstrate that supply chains were secure and where disrupted alternatives were secured, the public continued to purchase fresh as much as possible.”
‘Junk food’ comprising confectionery, candy and fast food saw negligible increase in consumption, similar to the global market.
Furthermore, almost 40% of UAE consumers shopped online in the month prior to the survey, the global average was 30%.
Lockdowns had a major impact on retail and supermarket shopping in the UAE, which may have influenced the greater-than-average intent to use online shopping and delivery services. Over half of consumers say they plan to use these services in future (54%).
“Going into the pandemic, grocery delivery was still essentially a niche industry for the UAE. We’re seeing Amazon and Noon encroach upon this segment that was previously the domain of the Carrefour and Lulu Hypermarkets in the past. Added to this we’re seeing the aggregators like Instashop and NowNow adding local convenience stores to the online grocery arena,” Ahmed said.
One challenge for UAE’s online grocery sector was, “the availability of delivery slots became a hurdle during lockdown leading consumers to increase the size of their basket when they got a delivery slot to ensure they had enough until their next delivery slot,” Ahmed said.
“Consumers were limited in the number and duration of shopping trips that could be made outside the home, which may have led to increased purchase volumes per trip.”
Ahmed thinks the trend is likely to stay post-pandemic: “As people have been making new habits of shopping for grocery items over the extended pandemic period, it’s hard to see some of these users going to back in-store as frequently has they might have done pre-pandemic. The trend continues towards remote shopping generally and this continues to apply more to grocery shopping as well.”
Besides ordering groceries and delivering it to consumers’ homes direct, the report also shed light on click and collect services where consumers buy online but collect their goods at a physical store.
In 16 of the 17 markets surveyed, online delivery was much more popular than click and collect services, except France.
“Not only is having groceries delivered more convenient than picking them up – even taking into account delivery fees – but with many areas under stay at-home orders, some consumers had a powerful disincentive to leave the house for anything but the most important reasons. In markets such as Singapore, for example, population density makes driving and therefore click and collect less attractive; in markets where the population is less dense, the reverse may be true,” the report said.