May 8, 2020

Grocery Lists Signaled Changes Before CPG Brands Had Sales Data

Predicting the future is next to impossible. However, recently our team has unearthed a new way to accomplish the impossible. Exhibit A: Predictive data via grocery lists.

As it turns out, grocery lists have become an immense source of consumer data and can show what consumers will buy before they go to the grocery store.

Grocery lists reveal insights around a shopper’s brand preferences, basket size, and product adjacencies. They can indicate if a shopper has a dog, or a baby, or even a pet salamander. Grocery list data can even help predict how consumer shopping habits will change during a pandemic.

The AdAdapted team recently re-examined data surrounding the early stages of #stayathome. Our team found trends around in-store shopping activity weeks before brands even had sales data. As an example, let’s focus specifically on the activity surrounding “granola bars”:

COVID-19 hit everyone’s radar and for the most part, life continued. Consumers were still buying granola bars as a staple product. However, as the #stayathome quarantine orders started to roll-out, granola bars took a significant hit; granola bars began to appear less and less on grocery lists.

See chart below.

We dug in to find out why and here’s what we saw: Despite being a shelf-stable, ready-to-eat product that many assume would be perfect for keeping families at home fed, the fate of granola bars was tied very closely to where granola bars were being consumed; school lunch, commuter’s breakfast, midday work snack.

When schools began closing, consumers stopped adding granola bars to their lists. Reviewing activity around the term, state by state, our team saw a consistent drop in granola bar transactions directly connected to the day that schools closed in various states. No more school meant parents no longer needed to send packaged easy-to-eat goodies in the form of granola bars. It’s that simple.


In speaking to multiple granola bar brands, we were able to confirm that this significant dip did in fact happen and the granola bar market felt it (and are still feeling it). A few companies even mentioned it would have been great to have seen this coming and have been able to react.

React how? One idea suggests promoting granola bars a bit differently; Hey parents with kids at home, granola bars aren’t just for school. Try this easy snack that keeps your kid satisfied and you productive during WFH!

Even with the ability to predict the future, it can still be challenging to respond in a way that makes a difference. Knowing what’s happening in the market is a critical part of building your CPG advertising strategy. Grocery lists help your brand harness this type of predictive data.

Reach out to AdAdapted to learn more about how your brand can benefit!

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