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Less beef, more beer: How coronavirus has changed what Austinites are buying these days

Consumer data from the retail app Ibotta shows how our buying habits have changed since the pandemic began.

AUSTIN, Texas — You can tell a lot about people from what they buy. Anyone working in retail marketing knows that. But what if what we buy tells us how our lives have been changed by the coronavirus pandemic?

That was the question asked by Ibotta, a company that offers a free, cashback app for retail purchases. It analyzed shopping data – 35 million receipts – from a two-week period in early summer this year, then compared them with what we purchased during the same time last year.

So, how has the pandemic changed our buying habits? The answer is yes.

One change is obvious – online shopping was up nearly 79% from a year ago.

While we’re at the computer doing our shopping, we may be consuming more alcoholic beverages. The data show that Austinites are drinking at home more. Beer sales are up 77%, wine sales up 72% (rosé is the most-preferred wine) and spirits sales increased 76.6%.

“It’s probably because people are avoiding bars or not socializing as much that they’re bringing the alcohol home,” said Bryan Leach, CEO of Ibotta.

RELATED: US retail sales up 17.7% in a partial rebound from plunge

Leach said his company’s data indicated Central Texans have big plans for the outdoors this summer, buying 85% more sunscreen this year than last and 75% more pool toys. But we may be seeing more “dad bods” out there since we’re buying less home exercise and fitness equipment, down 100% from a year ago.

We’re not buying as much common food items as did last year. Beef purchases, veggies and fruit are all lower in sales, according to Ibotta’s analysis.

There’s another interesting fact. Pet adoptions are reportedly up this year, and that’s reflected in the data. Dog food sales in Austin are up 30% over last year while cat food sales are down 19%.


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