To stay well and safe in times of a pandemic, Indonesians are doing whatever it takes including changing the way they shop. Unsplash/NOW!JAKARTA

Shopping and cooking trends have undeniably been impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak. Behavioural shifts amongst Indonesians are likely to change permanently during these times, as they grapple with uncertainty about the impact of the virus.

Indonesian consumers are unlikely to go back to their old habits of frequently dining out, and forced to do home cooking, home delivery services and takeaways once everything gets back to normalcy after the global pandemic.

Short supplies at groceries, restaurant closings and the need to limit the number of shopping tours to minimise the spread of the virus are changing their behaviour including pushing more consumers from stock-ups to use more online ordering and home delivery services. The demand for certain grocery items and personal care products rise according to a study from Nielsen. 

There has been an increase in the sale of eggs (26%), beef (19%), produce (8%) and poultry (25%), followed by a rise sale in pharmaceutical products of around 48%, cooking spices 44% and home care products 33%.

Hygiene and personal care products like bar and liquid soap, hand sanitizer, wet tissues and liquid antiseptic are experiencing dramatic sales spikes from customers up to 285% in March compared to the early months of 2020.

A survey by Nielsen conducted from 2 – 8 March – just a few days after Indonesia confirmed its first two Covid-19 cases – emphasized that 75% of the respondents are still fond of going to conventional markets, while online ordering will potentially grow by 30%. The first-time buyers tend to have a high probability of converting to this way of shopping as they are accustomed to it. After buying groceries only a couple of times, it becomes a routine.

These sorts of figures represent how the pandemic is changing consumer’s behaviours in Indonesia. Managing Director of Nielsen Connect Indonesia Indrasena Patmawidjaja stated that the result represents six consumers’ buying patterns related to the virus development:

A healthy lifestyle proactive pattern or phase – after its discovery last December in Wuhan, China, the virus started to sweep the world including Indonesia at the end of January, causing sale of masks and hygiene products increased.

Healthy lifestyle proactive management – which took place when the Covid-19 cases began to reach out neighbouring countries before finally hitting Indonesia at the end of February and in early March. This is when hygiene products were priced doubled, followed by vitamins and supplements during that period.

Shopping for kitchen preparation – is where the numbers of cases began to soar up in mid-March. The sales of instant foods such as noodles, canned foods and cooking recipes are gradually forced.

Preparation for lockdown or quarantine at the end of March – is the moment when people began to practice self-isolation and limit their activities outside their homes, dragging them into excessive fears and panic buying.

As of now Indonesians are in the fifth stage while large-scale social restrictions and enforcement, better known as Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar (PSBB), are applied to several regions.

The final stage is seen as the new normal where brand new days are coming in, such as maintaining a clean lifestyle, cooking their dishes at home, and working from home — all of which will be viewed as regular habits in the future.

What else happens during PSBB? 

This year’s Ramadan is like no other. Indonesian Muslims will not be experiencing the Iftar traditions due to the pandemic. People will nevertheless get used to it, and they will use home delivery services, buy food, and cook to break their fast with their loved ones at home.

E-commerce and online groceries are becoming more popular than ever, especially in the capital with the government extending a full-scale social distancing period.

"The Covid-19 crisis has certainly changed attitudes and behaviours of consumers," said Vaughan Ryan, managing director for Southeast Asia at Nielsen Connect. "I don't believe people will fully stop eating out of the home, but clearly the virus impact will last for quite some time and we do expect consumers to continue to eat 'more' at home for the foreseeable future. But whilst consumer behaviour across markets in the immediate terms has changed, the subsequent question is 'when will it return to normal?' The answer might well be never."

Asyariefah R.A.

Asyariefah R.A.

Born into a nature-loving family, Asyariefah enjoys the outdoors. Now! Jakarta provides her favourite collection of narratives with a sense of helping establish her identity. Some of her key areas of expertise include human interest, arts & culture, travel and features.