Coronavirus has turned retail therapy into retail anxiety – keeping customers calm will be key to carrying on



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Jessica Vredenburg, Auckland University of Technology and Megan Phillips, Auckland University of Technology

So you finally hit the shops and cafes after weeks of lockdown.

After disinfecting your hands, following the arrows around the shop or to your table, taking care to avoid others where possible and, in some cases, providing your contact tracing details – how enjoyable was the experience, really?

The return to shopping and eating out has certainly come as welcome relief in those countries lucky enough to be opening up. The malls are open! You can book your favourite restaurant! Goodbye home cooking, hello table service!

And for the retail and hospitality industries, among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, the return to trading couldn’t come fast enough.

The return to normal trading, however, could still be a way off.

The new economic reality will have a profound impact on retail. Some of the routines developed during lockdown, such as cooking and baking at home or foregoing daily takeaway coffees, may continue post-pandemic if money is tight.

Shopping as a sensory experience will change

As well as the public spacing, tracing and hygiene rules, customers may also notice an absence of certain favourite experiential elements. Is a trip to Mecca Cosmetics as enjoyable when you can’t sample the products? Will Peter Alexander still smell like a cosy bedroom or the disinfectant used to clean the store?

The food and atmosphere may be great, but scenes such as this food hall in Italy are over for now.
http://www.shutterstock.com

As consumers, our senses play a major role in how much we enjoy retail experiences. Retailers have long employed the art of store atmospherics to encourage us to stay and spend.




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Atmospherics – such as scent, music, touch, temperature and crowding – all help create an engaging sensory experience for shoppers and patrons. Research suggests customers will stay longer, spend more, feel better, and be more satisfied in a retail environment they find pleasing to their senses.

The new COVID-19 environment has changed all that.

Will shoppers now prefer a reassuring freshly cleaned smell? The Hyatt hotel chain’s “seamless” scent (evocative of home and comfort) was an integral part of its brand experience. But the rival Hilton chain has just announced its CleanStay initiative in partnership with the manufacturer of Lysol disinfectant.

Keep the noise down and don’t touch

In New Zealand, tips on how to stay safe under its COVID-19 alert level 2 include restaurants and bars turning down the music volume. Raised voices, it seems, generate a wider “moist breath zone” that may increase viral spread.




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Reduced sound levels might help anxious consumers relax, but what will the atmosphere be like in a painfully quiet pub or restaurant? It could influence customer perceptions of the establishment, which in turn affect financial returns. Studies have found people bought more drinks in a bar when the music was louder than usual.

Retail guidelines in New Zealand recommend consumers only touch and try on merchandise they intend to buy. In the US, no touch retailing seems increasingly likely.

Such measures confound conventional retail theory, which suggests the more consumers touch, sort through, sample and try on, the more they buy. The removal of testers for products such as cosmetics, for example, significantly changes the shopping experience.

Sampling makeup and trying on clothes have long been part of the department store experience. How will consumers take to no-contact shopping?
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Don’t stand so close to me

Retailers in countries entering winter will also need to think quite literally about the atmosphere in their stores. Warmer temperatures tend to create a relaxing environment that encourages shoppers to linger. And physical warmth can even enhance the perceived value of products. But poorly ventilated or air-conditioned indoor spaces have been identified as potential hot spots for the spread of COVID-19.

Will warmer stores subconsciously affect the way shoppers react? Restaurateurs and retailers will be hoping not.

Paradoxically, the advice to keep our distance in public can lead to perceived crowding – a psychological state based on the number of individuals in a store, the extent of social interactions and the configuration of merchandise and fixtures. Higher levels of perceived crowding can lead to less positive emotions and decreased satisfaction.




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Shoppers may simply choose not to enter. If they do, they might feel on edge or even overwhelmed if they are trying to keep a safe distance from others. When personal space is invaded or when personal space zones are relatively large, it can lead to intolerance or even leaving.

The customer is always right

Ultimately, if retailers and hospitality service providers want customers to return in greater numbers the goal will be to minimise the perceived risks of infection. Emotionally taxing environments can negatively affect consumer behaviour, so managing the emotional component of the retail or dining experience becomes an even more crucial part of the overall value offered.

Adapting so-called “retail theatre” to include sanitation, hygiene, and keeping consumers calm will create a new kind of psychological comfort for the COVID-19 age. But how far will some go to give themselves an edge over competitors?

From pool noodles, mannequins and glass boxes to inner tubes, will these innovative adaptations draw in the crowds or make people run in the opposite direction?

How readily customers become comfortable with the etiquette of post-pandemic shopping will dictate how effectively retail and hospitality can provide that vital sense of well-being. In time, the words “retail” and “therapy” may again sit comfortably in the same sentence.The Conversation

Jessica Vredenburg, Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Marketing, Auckland University of Technology and Megan Phillips, Senior Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Retailing, Auckland University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Are you wearing gloves or a mask to the shops? You might be doing it wrong



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Maximilian de Courten, Victoria University; Barbora de Courten, Monash University, and Vasso Apostolopoulos, Victoria University

Many people in the community are wearing face masks and gloves in an attempt to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

They might put on these items to go to the shops, or perhaps when taking a walk through the neighbourhood.

The evidence on whether these measures will actually protect against coronavirus is mixed and largely inconclusive.

But you’re even less likely to get protection if you don’t take care when putting on these items, while you’re wearing them, and when you take them off.




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Are masks recommended?

In Australia, the Department of Health states you don’t need to wear a mask if you’re well.

People self-isolating with symptoms suspected to be COVID-19 are advised to wear a surgical face mask when other members of their household are in the same room.

This is in line with recommendations from other countries and the World Health Organisation.

Some countries, particularly those with higher rates of COVID-19 than Australia, provide different advice. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States recommend the use of masks, or cloth face coverings, more widely.

In Hong Kong, face masks are obligatory for everyone taking public transport.




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So do masks protect against COVID-19?

We should first separate the two distinct functions of a face mask: protecting others from being infected by a wearer, and protecting the wearer from infection.

SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, is transmitted via droplets that fly out of our mouths or nose: most commonly when when we cough or sneeze, but also when we speak.

Most of these particles range in size between 0.3-10 micrometers. They can be directly inhaled or land on a surface where we pick them up on our hands before touching our face.

The current thinking is face masks worn by an infected person can protect the people around them by filtering at least some of these particles, particularly larger ones. This constitutes the former of the two functions, and is known as “source control”.




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Regarding the latter – protecting the wearer from infection – there’s some research on this, but not for COVID-19 specifically.

Evidence has shown the use of masks among health-care workers can reduce their infection with various other coronaviruses – so masks are an important element of PPE.

But for people in the community who appear to be healthy, we need more research before we can draw firm conclusions on the benefits of masks.

Are you doing it wrong?

Whatever the state of the science, some people appear to be doing things that could defeat the purpose of wearing a mask. Examples include pulling the mask under their chin for a “breather” or to make a phone call; or touching the mask while wearing it.

Through these actions, you can transfer the virus directly from your hands or your mobile phone to your face, increasing your risk of being infected.

The WHO has published some dos and don’ts for wearing face masks, summarised here:



What about gloves?

Gloves prevent the transmission of germs if used properly, and are an integral part of PPE for health-care workers.

If you’re suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and you’re isolating at home, Australian guidelines recommend anyone wanting to clean your room should put on a mask and gloves before entering.

However, gloves have not been recommended as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 for the average citizen. That’s largely because of the evidence we have about how the disease is, and isn’t, transmitted.

The virus is not absorbed through skin, so you can’t contract COVID-19 through touch alone. To acquire coronavirus through touch, you would have to touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face.

Although it is possible, scientists believe a much smaller proportion of infections happen this way, as compared to when an uninfected person inhales virus-carrying droplets emitted directly from an infected person.




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In the US where there are much higher rates of COVID-19 than in Australia, the CDC also suggests the use of gloves only in two coronavirus-related scenarios:

Wear them right

While there’s no evidence to suggest wearing gloves in the community will protect you, if you do choose to wear them, there are some things you should consider.

Importantly, if you still touch your face with your gloved hands – or even touch your mobile phone – this renders the gloves useless.

And if you’re not careful, you can also contaminate your hands when you put on or take off gloves.

So follow these steps when removing gloves to reduce the risk of contaminating your hands in the process.


The Conversation


Maximilian de Courten, Professor in Global Public Health, Victoria University; Barbora de Courten, Professor and Specialist Physcian, Monash University, and Vasso Apostolopoulos, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research Partnerships, Victoria University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

We’ve had a taste of disrupted food supplies – here are 5 ways we can avoid a repeat



The Bread Famine and the Pawnbroker, Brothers Lesueur (18th century)

Kimberley Reis, Griffith University; Cheryl Desha, Griffith University, and Paul Burton, Griffith University

When our reliance on supermarkets is seriously disrupted – for example, by spikes in demand due to panic buying or the flooding of distribution centres – we are left with few alternatives. Supermarkets are central to our everyday lives, but they have also become symbols of our vulnerability in times of disruption.

The COVID-19 crisis has caused us to rethink many things we took for granted. This includes the plentiful supply of a great variety of food at relatively stable prices in our supermarkets.




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Until recently, if we thought about food security at all, it was more likely to conjure images of malnutrition in countries of the global south rather than empty supermarket shelves.

However, food insecurity exists in Australia. It can be experienced as hunger and also as feelings of anxiety about future food shortages.

The rise of supermarkets and global supply chains

Supermarkets were a 1930s success story that began during the Great Depression. The world’s first supermarket, King Kullen, opened with the enduring principle of “Pile it high, sell it low!” King Kullen became the standard model of supermarket operations with globally interconnected supply chains.

While this model epitomised the trend of globalisation, during the second world war more local food production was encouraged in the form of “victory gardens”. These made a significant contribution to food security during the war years. It was a demonstration of what can be achieved in times of crisis.

An Australian government ‘Grow your own’ campaign billboard from 1943.
NAA C2829/2



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‘What if’ questions help us build resilience

Contingency planning is about being clear on your Plan B or Plan C if Plan A hits trouble. It’s about asking the “what if” questions. As a planning tool, this enables systems to build resilience to disruption by identifying other pathways to achieve desired outcomes.

The difference between now and the 1930s is that today we are vastly more connected at a global scale. Within our food-supply chains, we can use the knowledge that comes from this greater connectivity to ask different “what if” questions.

For example, what if a pandemic and a severe weather event overlapped, disrupting critical transport infrastructure? How could we adapt?

Or what if several Australian states experienced serious disruptions to food supply at the same time? How could we ensure timely resupply?

Recent experiences of empty supermarket shelves remind us of the importance of such questions.

Greater self-sufficiency is sensible and practical. Australia’s National Strategy for Disaster Resilience makes clear that we should understand the risks we live with – in this case, our deep-seated and often unquestioned dependency on long food-supply chains.




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The strategy also calls for authorities to help empower citizens to share responsibility where they can in building their own resilience to hardship. This taps into a primal urge, as we have seen in the recent spike in demand for seedlings and vegetable plants at nurseries as people take to home gardening, digging not so much for victory as for survival during a shutdown.

Strategies to prepare for the next crisis

These questions highlight the need to think about ways to complement and enhance existing arrangements for supplying food. Our research identifies several immediate opportunities to promote shorter food-supply chains and devise contingency food plans:

1. We can buy more locally produced food staples, support local producers at a farmers’ market, join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group, or take advantage of online platforms that make a range of locally grown food more readily available.

2. Local businesses can embed contingency arrangements to ensure access to locally produced food within their business continuity plans, building greater capacity to keep business and local economies operating in difficult times.

3. Supermarkets can advocate for and support shorter food-supply chains by sourcing food products locally where possible and championing “buy local” campaigns.

4. An active undertaking to identify and map the regional food bowls of each city and township will support contingency plans.

5. Local councils can help make it possible to grow much more of the food we need, even in relatively dense towns and cities. This can range from potted herbs on apartment balconies, through to broccoli in suburban backyards to intensive farming operations in big industrial estate sheds or rooftops. Municipal parks that feature little more than lawn can devote some space to community gardens, while more rigorous land-use planning regimes can protect market gardening near urban centres.




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Societies have faced significant food and health crises over the centuries. Now, though, we have almost real-time data on food production, stocks and supply chains. Would it not be sensible to strengthen local food systems that can complement our supermarkets and global networks?

If we don’t do this, the only lesson we will have learned from the coronavirus crisis is to start hoarding baked beans, toilet paper and hand sanitiser as soon as we first hear of a looming disaster.The Conversation

Kimberley Reis, Lecturer, School of Environment and Science, Griffith University, Griffith University; Cheryl Desha, Associate Professor, School of Engineering and Built Environment, and Director, Engagement (Industry), Griffith University, and Paul Burton, Professor of Urban Management & Planning and Director, Cities Research Institute, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Don’t panic: Australia has truly excellent food security



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Steve Hatfield-Dodds, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and Peter Gooday, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

COVID-19 has taken Australia and the world by surprise. Coming after severe droughts in eastern Australia, concerns have been raised about Australian food security.

The concerns are understandable, but they are misplaced.

Despite temporary shortages of some food items in supermarkets caused by an unexpected surge in demand, Australia does not have a food security problem.

An Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences study released today outlines why Australia is one of the most food-secure countries in the world.

Supermarket shelves reflect a surge in demand

Uncertainties around the impacts of COVID-19 have triggered a rapid increase in purchasing by consumers seeking to stockpile a range of items, resulting in disruption to stocks of some basic food items.

This disruption is temporary and not an indication of food shortages.

Rather, it is a result of logistics taking time to adapt to an unexpected surge in purchasing.

We are highly food-secure

Food security refers to the physical availability of food, and to whether people have the resources and opportunity to get reliable economic access to it.

Australia ranks among the most food secure nations in the world, and is in the top 10 countries for food affordability and availability.

Australians are wealthy by global standards and can choose from diverse and high-quality foods from all over the world at affordable prices.

Most Australians can afford to purchase healthy food that meets their nutritional needs, and as a result, Australia has the world’s equal-lowest level of undernourishment.

We import only 11% of our food

Most food and beverages consumed in Australia are produced in Australia.

But not everything that Australians like to eat is produced here. So we import about 11% of the food and beverages we consume by value.

The imports are mainly processed products (including coffee beans, frozen vegetables, seafood products, and beverages), along with small amounts of out-of-season fresh food.


Imported products account for 11% of expenditure on food and beverages

Imports of processed and fresh (primary) food and beverages, as a share of total food and beverage consumption (including tobacco and alcohol) by value, three year average 2016-17 to 2018-19. Does not include takeaway and restaurant meals.
ABS 5368.0, 5204.0

It is possible that disruptions to food imports from COVID-19 (or something else) could result in temporary shortages of some products, restricting consumer choice in the same way as cyclones have restricted access to Australian bananas.

It would be unlikely to have a material impact on food security – in terms of ensuring a sufficient supply of healthy and nutritious food, even if higher prices for or limited availability of specific products disappoints or inconveniences some consumers.

Australia produces more food than it consumes

Australia typically exports about 70% of agricultural production.

The level of exports varies across sectors. Some of our largest industries, such as beef and wheat, are heavily export-focused. Others, like horticulture, pork and poultry, sell most of their products in Australia, with an emphasis on supplying fresh produce.


Most Australian agricultural production is export oriented

Share of agricultural production exported by sector, 3 year average, 2015-16 to 2017-18.
Source: ABARES 2020

Australia’s large exports, even in severe drought years, act as a shock absorber for domestic supply.

They allow domestic consumption to remain stable while exports vary, absorbing the ups and downs associated with Australia’s variable climate and seasonal conditions.


Domestic food consumption is stable, while agricultural exports vary

Domestic consumption and export estimates for wheat, beef, rice, fruit and nuts, 2006-07 to 2020-21. Fruit and nuts covers table grapes, apples, pears, oranges, mandarins, peaches, mangoes, bananas, almonds and macadamias. f = forecast.
Source: ABARES 2020

The outlook for rain is good

After a hot and dry 2019 and widespread drought conditions in NSW and Queensland, above-average recent rains and positive forecasts provide the basis for the best start to Australia’s agricultural production season in years.

While current prospects for winter crops are good, more rain is required for these to be realised.

The Bureau is forecasting that grain production is likely to return to close to average levels, with a significant chance of higher production given the good start to the winter cropping season.


Wetter than average conditions are likely across agricultural areas from May to July 2020

Map shows chance of exceeding median rainfall for the period May to July 2020, showing above average rainfall is likely or very likely across all inland areas of Australia, including the wheat sheep zone.
Source: BOM, April 9, 2020

For livestock producers, better seasonal conditions provide the opportunity to rebuild herds and flocks following a relatively long period of destocking.

Our access to food is secure

Australia is one of the most food-secure countries in the world, with ample supplies of safe, healthy food. The vast majority of it is produced here in Australia, and domestic production more than meets our needs, even in drought years.

While we import about 11% of our food and beverages, disruptions to these imports would not threaten the food security of most Australians.

The Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences is forecasting a return to close to average levels of grain production, with a significant chance of higher production, given the good start to the winter cropping season.




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The analysis released today explores related issues in more depth, including the contribution of irrigated agriculture to Australian food security, levels of global grain stocks, and the contributions of international trade and Australian exports to food security in other countries.

Australia’s agricultural producers do rely on global supply chains and imported inputs. Shortages or disruptions to these inputs have not yet been significant or widespread, but could reduce productivity and profitability.

While action is already in train to address key issues, it will be important for business and government to continue actively monitoring and managing these risks.The Conversation

Steve Hatfield-Dodds, Executive Director, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and Peter Gooday, Acting Executive Director Agriculture, Water, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why closing our borders to foreign workers could see fruit and vegetable prices spike



Dave Hunt/AAP

Michael Rose, Australian National University

One aspect of the COVID-19 crisis that has so far escaped widespread public attention in Australia is its potential impact on our food security.

We haven’t seen supermarket shortages of fruit and vegetables like toilet paper and pasta because, being perishable, they are not easily stockpiled and therefore less prone to demand-side spikes.




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But being perishable also makes them more susceptible to supply-side shocks, such as we’re seeing with higher prices now for the likes of broccoli due to the impact of drought and bushfires.

The major variable in whether the coronavirus crisis will hurt fruit, vegetable and nut supplies (and prices) depends on how they are picked while the nation’s border remains closed to the foreign seasonal workers on which Australian farmers depend.

Foreign muscles, Australian fruit

Rural Australia’s dependence on the muscles of tens of thousands of backpackers and workers on temporary working visas is sometime minimised by official statistics.

More than one-third of peak seasonal jobs on horticultural farms are filled by overseas workers, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

But anyone in direct contact with the industry knows most direct harvest labour in Australia is done by foreigners.

Official statistics about agricultural workers are rubbery. The Australian Bureau of Statistics, for example, can only estimate the total number of workers at between 240,000 and 408,000.

The vagueness is due to three reason. First, the data is based on a single month (in this case August 2016) and picking work is seasonal, with less workers employed in winter. Second, workers move around, so double-counting can occur. Third, overseas workers and contract workers provided by labour hire companies are not included in labour force surveys.

What immigration data tells us, however, is that in 2017-18 about 31,000 backpackers did at least 88 days of farm work to be eligible to extend their visas for a year. (There are no numbers for the number of backpackers working on farms for other reasons.)

A further 8,500 workers from Pacific Island nations and Timor-Leste worked on farms for up to six months on visas issued under Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme. This increased to about 12,000 in 2018-19.

Domestic restrictions

The indefinite closure of Australia’s borders to non-resident foreign nationals jeopardises this supply of farm workers.

The question is whether the spike in domestic unemployment will see Australian workers (and other foreign workers) displaced from other sectors flocking to rural areas to take up those jobs.

Possible complications are travel restrictions, with states closing borders and city dwellers being told to stay away from Australia’s country towns, and the Australian government’s income assistance measures.

As migration researcher Henry Sherrell notes of the job seeker allowance being doubled to A$550 a week, “that’s a pretty decent week if you’re on picking piece rates”.




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“In theory, Australians laid off in the many sectors now facing recession could head for the countryside and start picking fruit,” he argues in an article co-authored with Stephen Howes, an economics professor at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy.

In practice, it is just not going to happen. The work is difficult, and farms often geographically isolated. It would take years not months to change the reality that farm work is just not in the choice set of most Australians – who, after all, live in one of the most urbanised and richest countries in the world.

An exemption for seasonal workers

Allowing backpackers and seasonal workers in Australia to extend their visas is an obvious first step. On top of any measures to encourage foreign workers to stay, the longer term may require making an exception to the ban on their entering the country.

The entry of seasonal workers from the Pacific and Timor-Leste already requires medical checks before they travel. Exempting those with seasonal work visas from our closed border policy would not be unreasonable. Canada, which runs a similar guest worker program, has already done so.



With Australian help, workers could be tested for COVID-19 before they fly. On arrival here they would be quarantined for 14 days like everyone else.

The government would need to step in and pay for suitable accommodation, catering and medical services. It would also need to ensure arrangements so workers can get home. But there are there a number of benefits to justify the cost.




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It contributes not only to Australia’s food security but also its national interest, maintaining and deepening its bonds with its island neighbours.

If there is a silver lining to the current grim situation, it may be that it could serve to make real the rhetoric that our relationship with the Pacific (and Timor-Leste) is one defined by partnership, in which we help ourselves through helping each other.The Conversation

Michael Rose, Research fellow, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Psychology can explain why coronavirus drives us to panic buy. It also provides tips on how to stop




Melissa Norberg, Macquarie University and Derek Rucker, Northwestern University

In an address on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison expressed his dismay at the hordes of “panic buyers” sweeping supermarket shelves clean across the country:

Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis.

It started with toilet paper, and now many non-perishable foods are difficult to source, as shoppers stockpile in preparation for the worst.

But is there a rationale for such behaviour? And how can we move beyond our psychological impulses to shop smarter, and consider the needs of others?

COVID-19 – an unwitting stress test

The coronavirus outbreak is not only a time of uncertainty, but also a period in which many of us are experiencing social isolation. Both of these factors can psychologically motivate people to buy things they don’t need.

Feeling unable to tolerate uncertainty is associated with more extreme hoarding behaviour. Hoarding entails the collection of more items than can be feasibly used, to the point of impeding the functionality of a home. Even though the behaviours we’re seeing may not be “hoarding” in this sense, they’re likely driven by the same psychological mechanisms.

One of the strongest predictors of hoarding behaviour is an individual’s perceived inability to tolerate distress. If it’s in a person’s general nature to avoid distress, they may be at risk of buying more products than they can feasibly use during the pandemic.

For such people, it may be difficult to believe authorities when they announce supermarkets will not close. Or, if they do believe them, they may decide it’s best to “prep”, just in case things change.




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The coronavirus also reminds many people of their own mortality, and this can lead to an increase in spending to offset fear.

Even if a person typically feels able to handle distress, they may still end up buying more than they need. Seeing empty shelves can trigger an urge to snatch what is left. Research on the “scarcity heuristic” suggests we assume items are more valuable if they are in low supply.

Also, consumer goods are more than functional. Products and brands also serve psychological purposes and can change how we feel. For example, some people turn to alcoholto alleviate anxiety or distress.

How to overcome psychological forces

So how can we make rational decisions, when multiple psychological forces make this difficult?

While no perfect remedy exists, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques can help people avoid making decisions based on unhelpful urges and emotions. CBT has been shown to improve intolerance of uncertainty, and reduce anxiety and fear.

CBT involves problem-solving and engaging in avoided behaviour to test the validity of one’s beliefs. The idea is to challenge unhelpful thoughts, and make decisions based on evidence.

To apply this approach when shopping during the coronavirus pandemic, you should start by taking stock of the items you already have at home, and how long they will last.

When stocking up, it’s important to limit waste and be considerate. It’s not helpful to buy food that spoils, or buy so many products that others, including the elderly, experience hardship. Buying 100 rolls of toilet paper is useless if it takes a year to use them.




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Food waste can be limited by developing meal plans for the next two to three weeks, keeping in mind when certain products expire. By focusing your attention on what you will realistically use during this time, you can make more informed decisions about what to buy.

It’s OK to feel anxious

When shopping, take a list with you to guide your purchases, and try your best to stick to it. This way, you’ll be less likely to succumb to anxiety-driven purchases triggered by the sight of empty shelves, or thoughts of supermarkets closing. That said, be willing to buy substitutes if certain items are sold out. You can plan for this in advance.

You may start to feel anxious when only buying items for use in the immediate future. That’s OK. Numerous research trials have shown people can tolerate anxiety, and that changing unhelpful behaviour reduces anxiety in the long run.

Research has also shown people who chronically hoard can tolerate distress better than they think. So, while anxiety may be inevitable for some on their next shopping trip, they will likely be able to tolerate it. And it may be reduced if the above strategies are adopted.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Australians had a problem of buying things they didn’t need. We’re the ninth-largest contributor of household waste per person in the world, spending more than A$10.5 billion each year on goods and services we rarely use. Over half of that expenditure is for food that gets wasted.

Perhaps understanding the psychological mechanisms underpinning our shopping behaviour can help us make more rational purchases during this time of uncertainty.The Conversation

Melissa Norberg, Associate Professor in Psychology, Macquarie University and Derek Rucker, Professor of Marketing, Northwestern University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Frozen, canned or fermented: when you can’t shop often for fresh vegetables, what are the best alternatives?



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Jesse Beasley, University of Melbourne; Kate Howell, University of Melbourne; Nathan M D’Cunha, University of Canberra; Nenad Naumovski, University of Canberra, and Senaka Ranadheera, University of Melbourne

If you’re trying to reduce your trips to the shops as you practise social distancing and contribute to “flattening the curve” of the coronavirus spread, you might be wondering what it means for your vegetable crisper.

Fresh vegetables need replacing often and, thanks to panic buying, there’s no guarantee you’ll find your favourite fresh foods in your local supermarket.

The good news is there are some really nutritious alternatives to fresh vegetables, and the old adage that “fresh is best” isn’t always true.

How to ‘flatten the curve’. Video by the Australian Academy of Science.

Even before coronavirus, vegetables were getting pricier

Fresh vegetable prices have been increasing on average 2% per year over the past decade.

In Australia, vegetable prices are expected to increase 20-50% over the coming months due to drought and the recent bushfires.

Cauliflower, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, and root vegetables such as potatoes and pumpkins are expected to be hardest hit.

We should therefore all be thinking of ways to maximise the shelf life of our fresh veggies. In addition, it’s important not to forget the value of frozen, canned and fermented alternatives.




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Health Check: which fruits are healthier, and in what form?


Don’t skip the veggies, even in a pandemic

Australian dietary guidelines recommend daily consumption of different types and colours of vegetables. However, these guidelines don’t say in what form these veggies should be eaten.

Fresh vegetables are at their most nutritious (and often cheapest) when they are recently harvested and in season, which is not always the case on supermarket shelves.

Long transport times and poor storage conditions can also reduce the nutritional quality of fresh vegetables.

The upshot is that frozen and fermented vegetables can provide the same nutrition as fresh alternatives, especially as they’re often harvested in season and snap-frozen or fermented soon after picking.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to remember vegetables are not only nutritious – they can also reduce the risk of cancer and improve your gut microbiome.

Frozen and fermented vegetables can provide the same nutrition as fresh alternatives.
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Fresh vs frozen vegetables

The shelf life of fresh vegetables is generally short (3-14 days) even when refrigerated. Freezing, on the other hand, can preserve the nutritional quality of vegetables and increase their shelf life to up to 12 months.

In some cases, frozen vegetables have a higher nutritional quality than fresh vegetables, particularly if there is a short time between harvesting and freezing.

Nevertheless, some nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin C are vulnerable to the freezing process. One study found higher levels of vitamin C in fresh capsicum, carrot, parsley and spinach relative to frozen alternatives.

Variation in the freezing process, storage conditions and temperature can also change the quality of vegetables.

For example, ice crystals that form during freezing can damage the internal cell structure of potatoes and negatively affect their texture.

If you want to freeze vegetables yourself, select those that are fresh, undamaged and in season and blanch them quickly before freezing. This helps retain colour, flavour and nutritional quality.

Some vegetables such as tomato, capsicum and corn do not need to be blanched before freezing.

Blanching and freezing fresh veggies is a great way to improve shelf life.
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Canned and fermented vegetables

Canning and/or fermentation can extend the shelf life of vegetables to between one and five years.

Canned vegetables generally have a similar nutritional profile to fresh vegetables, particularly when it comes to minerals and fibre. However, certain steps in the process (such as peeling) may lead to some nutritional loss.

Just remember that once opened, canned vegetables should be stored in a separate container and consumed within three days.

Fermented vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut not only taste delicious, they have a range of health benefits and are packed with beneficial probiotics.

During fermentation, microorganisms convert the carbohydrates in veggies into alcohol and/or acids that act as natural preservatives (extending shelf life) and can improve the digestibility of starch and protein.

Fermented vegetables are also full of antioxidants and adding extra ingredients like ginger, chilli and garlic can make them an even more nutritious choice.

To reap the full benefits, ferment veggies yourself or choose refrigerated fermented vegetables at the shops (unrefrigerated versions are pasteurised and can have lower probiotic benefits).

Keep calm and eat veggies

Vegetables are a great source of essential nutrients and Australians should aim to eat a wide variety of them each day.

By including fresh, frozen, canned and fermented vegetables in our diet, we not only give our bodies a boost, but help to take pressure off Australian growers to produce high quality and seasonal vegetables all year round.

The vast majority of Australians don’t eat enough vegetables, and these nutritious and tasty alternatives could be the key to improving our overall health – at a time when we need it most.The Conversation

Jesse Beasley, PhD Student in BioSciences, University of Melbourne; Kate Howell, Senior Lecturer Food Chemistry, University of Melbourne; Nathan M D’Cunha, PhD Candidate, University of Canberra; Nenad Naumovski, Associate Professor in Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Canberra, and Senaka Ranadheera, Lecturer, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.