Considering the temporary closure of many food-away-from-home establishments, consumer expenditure on groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic has increased. While grocery shopping is an essential activity, not much is known about the dynamic relationship of the COVID-19 pandemic to the behavior of grocery shoppers. With an objective to inform variability in the behavior of grocery shoppers under various scenarios of the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted an online framed choice experiment to elicit preferences for purchasing methods, time windows, minimum order requirements, and fees. The manipulating factor relates to the trend in the COVID-19 pandemic, where we consider three scenarios: an increasing, decreasing, or constant number of new cases in the past two-week period. Using 32,400 choice decisions from a representative sample of 900 grocery shoppers in the United States, we conclude that the trend in the COVID-19 pandemic causes significant differences in grocery shopping preferences. In situations where COVID-19 is spreading at an increasing rate, consumers are generally less willing to shop inside the grocery store. When COVID-19 is spreading at a decreasing rate, the relative importance of the purchasing method attribute is lower in its entirety. We use our findings to inform recommendations for practitioners and policymakers.
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