During the COVID-19 crisis, many businesses are leaning on sentiment analysis tools to understand new shopping habits. Many consumers have forgone their favorite stores, restaurants, and venues due to the pandemic. Consumer spending, the U.S. economy’s key driver, posted its steepest monthly decline in records tracing back to 1959 as much economic activity ceased amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Wall Street Journal, consumer spending fell 7.5% in March.

However, no matter the circumstances, one thing that will always remain constant is the human need for food. Grocery stores are one of the few businesses deemed essential by global governments. However, this comes at a risk to shoppers and workers alike. Entering a shared space with multiple other customers, even when wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), can be dangerous for elderly or immunocompromised individuals. Some stores have taken measures such as limiting the number of people allowed to be shopping at once, requiring masks, and enforcing social distancing. Whether you live in a city or a rural town, rich or poor, people need to eat. In response to these troubling times, some people have changed their grocery shopping habits from going to the supermarket to ordering groceries online to be delivered.

Using sentiment analysis, we were able to uncover some interesting insights about which retail grocery stores are weathering the storm of coronavirus and whether or not they are poised to be eclipsed by quickly growing online delivery services.

Which Grocery Stores Drive the Most Conversation?


In looking at the top major U.S. grocery brands, social listening technology identified the most talked about online. Kroger is the largest grocery chain in the U.S., so it makes sense that the brand would see the most substantial amount of conversations online. Walmart stores drive the second-largest amount of discussion, which is in line with its equally important place as a go-to store for Americans. However, it is essential to notice that Walmart stores have significantly more conversation than Walmart Grocery, their online grocery delivery service.


This second chart is another great visualization of how certain grocery stores are faring online during the coronavirus pandemic. Notably, Instacart (shown here in light purple), a grocery delivery service, has been doing well. The brand has generated nearly as much conversation as some of the largest established grocery brands in the U.S.

One of the most significant concerns by grocery retailers is whether or not shoppers will use delivery more commonly to avoid going out in public and risking infection. The fast growth in conversation about Instacart is representative of American hesitation to go back to life as usual.


Taking a look at the volume timeline of these notable brands shows different peaks in engagement about each brand. Analyzing mentions associated with each spike in activity shows that not every spike is necessarily good news. The peak at the beginning of May accounts for strikes for international worker’s day. Many retailers like Amazon, Trader Joe’s, Instacart, Whole Foods, and Target all had worker-driven strikes due to inadequate protective gear and outbreaks of COVID-19 among employees.

They say that no press is bad press, but these days, mistakes can have a substantial negative impact on business. It is essential to incorporate sentiment analysis into brand research. Users get a fuller understanding of why certain brands are trending thanks to sentiment.


Sentiment Analysis of Top U.S. Grocery Brands

Let’s take a look at the sentiment analysis behind the top grocery brands in the U.S.


Sentiment analysis doesn’t lie. Conversations are over three times more negative than positive (18% negative, 5% positive.) This trend shows the American consumer’s frustration with grocery retail.

Among the brands with the most negative sentiment are Kroger, Walmart, Costco, and Instacart. This finding is likely due to continued strikes and concerns about the wellbeing of workers during the pandemic. As workers get sick due to carelessness on the part of the employer, consumers are boycotting established brands.


We broke down the difference in sentiment between brick and mortar grocery stores and grocery delivery services. The analysis shows that there are almost two times as many positive mentions of delivery than physical stores. Sentiment analysis like this is crucial because it helps businesses make concrete decisions based on data, facts, and figures rather than guesswork. This kind of information could lead to traditional brands building out delivery services to hop on the trend. These stores are also implementing stricter health and safety regulations for both workers and shoppers, among other changes.


The above Twitter mention is just one of many that have gone viral (no pun intended) in the past few weeks about essential workers who cannot work from home and need a steady income getting ill. Similar stories are unfortunately becoming all too familiar for those keeping up with the headlines.

It looks like for now, brick and mortar stores still have the upper hand. This reality is partly due to the uncertainty about delivery worker rules and regulations and stubborn resistance to change. However, the perks of delivery are becoming more tempting as unforeseen consequences like spreading illness have arisen from physical stores.

For more information about how customer sentiment can turn the tables for your brand, download our new use case story. Discover how a major CPG corporation made its business operations more sustainable based on sentiment analysis.