Google Searches Reveal Changing Consumer Food Sourcing in the COVID-19 Pandemic
Keywords:COVID-19, Pandemic, Google Trends, Consumer Behavior, Food Purchasing
Consumers are dramatically changing their food purchasing habits in response to the evolving COVID-19 pandemic (Kolodinsky, Sitaker, Chase, Smith, & Wang, 2020; Schmidt et al., 2020; Worstell, 2020). In part this is due to growing public awareness that food supply chains, which normally operate largely unnoticed and with great efficiency, are in fact fragile and vulnerable. With supply chain interruptions and mandates in several states for social distancing and a reduced number of grocery shop trips, consumers are compelled to think about food storability as well different food sourcing options. In this commentary we examine how consumer interest has changed since the advent of the pandemic, by observing Google search trends. Google Trends analysis has been widely used to study health-related aspects of COVID-19 and earlier pandemics (Arora, McKee, & Stuckler, 2019; Carneiro & Mylonakis, 2009; Ginsberg et al., 2009; Mavragani & Ochoa, 2019; Mavragani, Ochoa, & Tsagarakis, 2018; Nuti et al., 2014), but to our knowledge not to track changing consumer behavior with respect to food sourcing in real time. We offer these comments both as potential real-time tracking of consumer preferences, as well as working hypotheses for future more vigorous investigations.
 These searches are not without potential problems; for a summary discussion see:
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