COVID Buyer Habit Index

COVID Buyer Habit Index

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a number of new past times, from baking bread to at-home self care rituals. With the end of the pandemic now in sight, one major question remains: which of these new behaviors are likely to stick in our post-COVID routines?

To answer this question, Numerator created the COVID Buyer Habit Index. This index compares repeat purchase behavior of new category buyers during the height of COVID-19 panic buying (March / April 2020) to new buyers in the same period in 2019 to determine which categories in 2020 were more habit-forming in 2020, based on repeat buying behaviors.


This index examines 7 major FMCG categories— Alcohol, Beverages, Baking, Meat & Seafood, Snacks, Personal Care, and Vitamins & Supplements— to identify which were more habit-forming in 2020 versus 2019. Below are the key definitions for understanding the index:

  • New Buyers: purchased a given product or category for the first time in 6+ months during the focus period (March - April)
  • New Habit Formers: Subset of new buyers, repurchased the category in six or more of the months in the post-period (May - December)
  • COVID Habit Index: % of new buyers who formed habits in 2020 vs. % in 2019


  • Overall Snacks are not particularly more or less habit-forming compared to previous years.
  • Snack Mixes, Meat Snacks and Seeds/Trail Mixes are slightly more likely to be habit-forming in 2020
  • Puffed Snacks and Vegetable Snacks are less likely to be habit-forming during the pandemic than in 2019

Baking & Cooking

  • Overall Baking ingredients are more likely to have formed a habit in 2020 among new buyers. 
  • Baking raw materials (ingredients, Flours & Blends) were far more likely to be sticky in 2020, with new buyers 49% and 33% more likely to have formed a habit in 2020 respectively
  • Baking Mixes and Chips & Bars were also moderately more likely to have stuck in 2020, with new pandemic buyers 16% more likely to have formed a habit in both categories.
  • One notable difference is Yeast & Leaveners, whose packs can frequently be used over many instances so the jury is still out.

Meat & Seafood

  • Within Meat & Seafood categories, there is more variance on where new buyers are likely to stick.
  • Seafood was more habit driving in 2020 than in years past, with new Fresh Seafood buyers 78% more likely to have formed a habit and new Frozen Seafood buyers 14% more likely to have formed a habit in 2020
  • Beef and Frozen Meat new buyers were more likely to have formed a habit during the pandemic as well, with 2020 buyers 18% and 17% more likely to have formed a habit in 2020 vs. 2019
  • Of note, Meat Alternatives new buyers were slightly less likely (7%) to have formed a habit in 2020 vs. 2019.

*Categories below come from three departments: Meat, Fish & Seafood, and Frozen Foods


Vitamins & Supplements

  • Immunity and Vitamin Letters led the way as consumers looked for ways to stay healthy in the pandemic
  • Minerals were also slightly more habit-forming in 2020 vs. 2019, likely as consumers look for ways to boost their immune system


  • Across different Beverage categories, there is more variety in what was more vs. less habit-forming in 2020.
  • New Soft Drink buyers were 29% more likely to have formed a habit vs. 2019 new buyers, possibly due to a shift from out-of-home to in-home consumption
  • Sports and Energy drinks were also fairly sticky, with new buyers 11% more likely to have formed a habit in 2020
  • Kombucha was less habit forming in 2020 vs. previous years, with new drinkers 22% less likely to have formed a habit.


  • With bars closed and virtual happy hours on the rise, new Alcohol buyers were more likely to have stuck in the category and formed a new habit compared to previous years.
  • Wine was the most sticky alcohol category, with 2020 new buyers 66% more likely to have formed a habit - or repurchased the category 6+ months in the remaining months of the year - vs. the previous year.
  • Beer and Spirits were also very sticky, with new buyers 45% and 42% respectively more likely to have formed a habit than the previous’ year new buyers

Personal Care

  • In various Personal Care categories, consumers appear to have adapted to self-service, possibly forming a lasting habit, swapping the salon for the sink.
  • New Hair Color buyers were far more likely to have stuck in the category than in previous years, coloring their hair more frequently than just a one-off touch up.
  • New Nail Color buyers were 72% more likely to have stuck in the category as well, returning to repurchase additional colors and supplies to provide more variety for their at-home manicures

Find out how sticky your brand or category is.

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