Tuesday, June 22, 2021

What Consumers Purchased During the Covid-19 Pandemic

Erin Ollila
May 04, 2021

4 minute read

Oracle’s New Consumer study examined aggregated, internal consumer packaged goods (CPG) purchase data, representing $762 billion in annual consumer spending, in an attempt to learn how spending and consumption changed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The report studied consumer shopping behaviors across generations and found that last year, consumers gave in to guilty pleasures, shopped online more, and tried new brands at unprecedented rates.

But what were they actually buying, and even more importantly, why did they purchase the items they did? We asked real consumers from across the US why they chose to buy some of the most commonly purchased items, according to the New Consumer study. Here’s what they had to say.

Fancy napkins

Millennials increased their purchasing of fancy napkins by a whopping 337% last year. Why? It seems like the purchasing stemmed from both convenience and caring for the environment.

Cristin Downs, a New York mom and small business owner says, “I bought fancy cloth napkins. We moved to a place with a washer and dryer, and I thought it would be nice to save the planet.”

Millennial Katie Eber also purchased fancy napkins this year, but for a slightly different reason. She says, “I bought fancy napkins because I couldn’t find paper towels!”


Soda was a widely purchased item during the pandemic, but especially for Baby Boomers and Generation X consumers. In fact, Baby Boomers increased their purchase of soda by 140%. We asked consumers from both generations why they added this item to their shopping carts, and all indicated it was a guilty pleasure of sorts.

Elizabeth Hilts, a Connecticut writer, shares, “I had stopped drinking and buying soda, but during the pandemic, I started again because it felt like a necessary indulgence.”

Melissa Droegemuller, an early childhood education specialist, says, “We did buy more soda at the beginning of the pandemic when my husband wasn’t stopping by the convenience store for a fountain drink. That’s his regular splurge, so when we cut back on non-essential trips, that was the first thing to go.”

Robin Walker, a Wisconsin mom, says, “We bought 12-packs of soda during the shutdown—we usually don’t—to try to make things more enjoyable for our teenagers now that they were trapped at home with their parents. We searched out new flavors and brands.”

Dry yeast

Consumers aged 41-56 increased their spending of dry yeast by 134% last year, and that’s even with the item being so hard to come by at various points of the year due to a yeast shortage. It turns out it was mostly purchased to start or restart a baking pastime.

Arizona content strategist, Abby Herman shares, “My 18-year-old daughter decided to start baking this year, along with everyone else. Sadly, she baked bread that this not-by-choice, gluten-free mom couldn’t eat, so she got to enjoy it all on her own.”

Krista Richards, a mom of two, says, “I purchased yeast to bake bread and pizza. The house always smelled of fresh-baked bread.”

Organic spinach

Purchased at a rate of 198% more than the previous year, Millennials stocked up on organic baby spinach as a way to make healthier food choices in 2020.

Massachusetts mom Holly Souza says, “I buy organic baby spinach because there’s more nutritional value in baby spinach than just plain lettuce. Plus, there are so many ways to eat it. I use it as a base for my salad. I put it on sandwiches, and I sauté it as a side with dinner.”

Adam Trahan, a Millennial dad, shares, “Organic baby spinach is always on the grocery list. We buy it because it’s a good general green to throw in with a meal, and we buy organic whenever we can.”

Cristin Downs also bought more spinach for her family, and shares, “Our spinach consumption increased because we aren’t going and eating elsewhere and felt like we needed to increase our veggies. Spinach is an easy way to do that, and we add it to our smoothies.”

Will these trends from the New Consumer study continue in 2021? Are there new consumer packaged goods that will take the lead? It’s too soon to tell!

Don’t stop there! See more articles like this:

Erin Ollila
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. After a 12+ year career in human resources, she's jumped headfirst into digital strategy. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media.
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