• A time of transition: changes in Irish food behaviour and potential implications due to the COVID-19 pandemic

      Henchion, Maeve; McCarthy, Sinead N; McCarthy, M.; Corona Cooking Study Group (Teagasc, 2021-05-13)
      Consumers’ food choice decisions are generally relatively stable over time; consumers engage in habitual decision-making due to the high frequency of such decisions for efficiency reasons. As a result, habits are strong predictors of eating behaviour. However, changes in the life of the individual or the external environment can result in more conscious consideration of food choice motives and a transition to new patterns of behaviour to fit the new context. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is examined in this paper as a particularly useful case of how a change in context affects food choice trajectories. Drawing on results from an online survey of 651 food consumers in Ireland, it examines food planning, shopping, preparation and eating behaviour, including stockpiling and influences on decision-making. Overall, it finds significant evidence of a transition towards new patterns of behaviours, with two distinct clusters identified – the “Covid copers” and the “restless restrictors”. For both groups, the shopping experience has become stressful resulting in reduced frequency of shopping and higher levels of planning. Conversely, time pressures related to cooking have reduced, with enjoyment associated with such activities. This is also reflected in stockpiling behaviour; the top three foods most likely to have been stockpiled in Ireland were pasta/rice, eggs and flour, reflecting the nation’s desire to bake and cook during the pandemic. These behaviours are discussed in the context of emerging supply chain actor responses, with considerations for future strategic decisions identified, along with some opportunities for public health nutrition interventions.