Citizens and food during lockdown

5th May 2020

The latest in our surveys looking at planning, purchase, storage and consumption behaviours.

Key findings
UK citizens are managing their food better in lockdown, including more pre-shop planning, better in-home food management and using creative approaches to cooking.
These new behaviours are leading to a reported 34% reduction in waste of potatoes, bread, chicken, and milk.
WRAP calls on businesses, local authorities and others to help citizens make this the 'new normal'.

The Covid-19 lockdown is having a profound effect on UK citizens’ daily lives, including several significant and wide-reaching impacts on food behaviours. WRAP undertook new research, Citizen responses to the Covid-19 - food purchasing, management and waste, to understand the impact of the lockdown on citizens’ planning, purchase, storage and consumption behaviours; and to explore implications for changes in levels of food waste. Insights from this research will allow WRAP and partners to develop maintenance and mitigation strategies to support a continued reduction in household food waste.

The research, which is the latest in our regular tracking surveys of UK citizens' food behaviours, was undertaken online from 6-9 April 2020 (around two weeks after the UK went into “lockdown” on 23 March). 4,197 interviews were undertaken with a nationally representative sample of UK adults aged 18+ with responsibility for grocery shopping and/or food preparation.

Key findings

  • Shopping patterns are in flux. Frequency of shopping is down (63% of UK citizens report they shopped less frequently in the past month) while the amount of food purchased is up (59% of citizens stating that they have bought more in the last month).
  • Attitudes towards food waste have changed, with a 23% increase in citizens who ‘strongly agree that food waste is an important national issue’ and that ‘everyone, including me has a responsibility to minimise the food I throw away’.
  • On average UK citizens have adopted 6 positive food management behaviours 'more often' in the past month. These include more pre-shop planning, better in-home food storage, freezing more and creative approaches to cooking and or food preparation. 
  • The vast majority (85% or more) of citizens undertaking more food management behaviours are finding them useful – especially freezing, batch cooking, saving leftovers, making a list and date labelling items for the freezer.
  • These changes have contributed to a 34% reduction in respondents self-reported level of food waste across four key products – potatoes, bread, milk and chicken.

The survey has shown that, during this difficult time, the UK population is enormously resilient and resourceful. By being ‘food smart’ people are making the most of the food they buy and reporting less food waste. The foundations for stronger food management behaviours have emerged from the necessity of lockdown.