Austin shoppers bag surprising items during pandemic, according to trends report

Austin shoppers bag surprising items during COVID, says trends report

A new trends report from Instacart shows Austin shoppers are opting for some unpredictable grocery items. Photo courtesy of Instacart

Brisket, tamales, and beer are usual staples on Austinites’ grocery lists. But it’s 2020 and everything is weird, so it’s no wonder our shopping habits reflect some unexpected grocery picks we’ve acquired a taste for this year.

To unearth the habits, Instacart’s New Year, New Cart report analyzed purchase trends and consumer survey data to uncover "shifts in shopping behavior, buying preferences, and food attitudes after nearly a year of COVID-19 pandemic living... ." The report also indicates which ingredients will likely top grocery lists in 2021.

Texas go-tos like tacos, chili, and salsa are not what Austinites are craving. Instead, surprising ingredients like anchovies, chickpeas, and oat milk top the list of trending grocery items.

The grocery delivery service notes the sale of anchovies is up 24 percent in Austin from last year, while chickpea purchases are up 37 percent, and oat milk sales are up a whopping 135 percent. Gochujang, fermented Korean chile paste, is also a hot seller in Austin, getting a 38 percent boost in year-over-year sales.

Instacart credits shoppers’ grocery choices to 2020 being the year of the home chef, with research showing nearly half of all Americans — 47 percent — saying they’re cooking most if not all their meals at home, leading Instacart to claim, “2020’s food trends were, in one word, unpredictable.”

Case in point: Kewpie mayo, rich Japanese mayonnaise, is so popular on local grocery lists that Austin ranks third nationally in the purchase of the creamy spread, behind only Seattle and Los Angeles.

And it seems Austinites have traded in our 2020-inspired love of home baking for a focus on foods that can shrink our waistlines. According to the Instacart report, Austin is the No. 1 market in the nation for the sale of keto products, with fifth-ranked Houston and seventh-ranked San Antonio not far behind.

In those other Texas markets, the same unexpected grocery items are also trending, with the sale of chickpeas up 38 percent and oat milk sales up 79 percent in San Antonio, and Houston data showing anchovy sales up 58 percent, chickpea sales up 36 percent, and oat milk sales up an astounding 300 percent.

The pandemic has also changed the way we shop. Instacart data shows a noticeable shift, in particular, in when shoppers are ordering, with orders placed during working hours increasing by 32 percent this year, an obvious indication of so many Americans working from home in 2020 and playing what Instacart calls “digital hooky.”

“The events of 2020 have forever changed how Americans shop for groceries and household goods,” says Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s trends expert and senior product manager. “After months of binge baking, drinking more and indulging in quarantine comfort foods, our findings show that the pendulum is swinging the other way as online consumers set their sights on a new year full of bolder flavors, lower-alcohol cocktails and resolution-friendly keto snacks.”