CHICAGO – As restaurants add capacity and COVID-19 vaccinations become widely available, market research data company Numerator has launched a Grocery Vulnerability Index to help guide CPG brands and retailers on the impact that increased out-of-home dining has on selected grocery categories.  

The index measures the likelihood that a change in quick-service restaurant (QSR) spending correlates to a change in spending on a given grocery category. 

"As COVID restrictions begin to relax and vaccinations become widely used, retailers and brands need to understand what the changes mean for their business," said Eric Belcher, chief executive officer of Numerator. "Numerator data helps retailers and brands anticipate and predict the impact of re-emerging behaviors using advanced analytics." 

Categories with the highest index scores (>125) are most likely to be negatively affected when consumers return to pre-COVID dining behaviors (methodology below). Key findings include: 

Highly Vulnerable categories: Meat, Herbs & Spices 

  • Meat is 50% more likely than the average grocery category to experience a decrease in grocery sales as QSR/restaurants reopen and consumers replace their home-cooked meals. 
  • Herbs & Spices are 46% more likely to see a decrease in sales, with more consumers eating out and reducing their at-home food preparation. 

Moderately Vulnerable: Packaged Bakery, Dairy 

  • Packaged Bakery is 13% more likely to have a negative response, as increased mobility among consumers will likely result in more baked goods purchased on-the-go from QSRs. 
  • Dairy is 8% more likely to see a decrease. While many dairy products remain staples in the refrigerator, both consumption and usage in recipes will likely decline. 

Wait and See: Frozen Foods, Baking & Cooking 

  • Frozen Foods is currently categorized as a "Wait and See" category, currently at 2% more likely to see a decrease, but certain categories within frozen foods are more vulnerable than others to an increase in restaurant spend. 
  • Baking and Cooking is currently at 2%, but vulnerability could be reduced if baking hobbies taken up during the pandemic become lasting behaviors. 

Not Vulnerable: Shelf Stable Meals, Breakfast, and more 

  • Shelf Stable Meals are the least likely (-69%) to see a decrease in sales as restaurants reopen. 
  • Other grocery categories considered not vulnerable to increased restaurant spend are Breakfast (-56%), Canned Foods (-37%) and Produce (-33%).