Company Updates

Instacart Forecasts the Top Items Expected to Trend This Winter Season



Oct 8, 2020

The seasons are quickly changing and we’ll soon be greeted with shorter days, colder weather, and a new cold and flu season. As we make the transition to fall and winter, we’re already starting to see shifts in consumer purchase behavior with new foods, home essentials, and health & wellness items rising in popularity. So what exactly will be in high demand this winter? Insights from Instacart show that Americans are starting to stock up on vitamins and supplements, virus-killing disinfectants, as well as many of the pantry, freezer, and home supply staples that were especially popular in the early days of the pandemic.

Boosting the immune system

In advance of a possible “twindemic,” Instacart Insights show that people may be taking a proactive approach to their health by turning to immune system boosting vitamins and supplements, with vitamin purchases up 27% year-over-year. Similarly, searches for “Emergen-C” and “Vitamin D” are up 280% and 112% respectively compared to 2019 levels. When it comes to over-the-counter medicine that helps treat symptoms, year-over-year purchase data shows a decline overall. Sales for products within the “cold & flu medicine” category are down 35% compared to 2019.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, sales for over-the-counter virus treatment drugs reached new highs as people prepared for COVID-19 and stockpiled their medicine cabinets in advance,” said Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s Senior Product Manager and Trends Expert. “People likely still have many of the drugs they purchased from earlier this year and have now shifted their focus to boosting their immune system as best as possible to fight off potential virus threats as we head into an uncertain winter season.”

Vitamins and Supplements v.s. Over-the-Counter Medicine — which U.S. cities are buying the most?

Here are the top five cities seemingly taking the preventative route, with the highest share of vitamin and supplement products in their carts:

  1. Boston, MA
  2. Miami, FL
  3. Orlando, FL
  4. Jacksonville, FL
  5. Tampa, FL

We see you Florida. Four out of the top five cities purchasing the most immune-system boosting vitamins are located in Florida. Could this be directly correlated to Florida’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases?

Perhaps turning to more traditional forms of treatment, these top five cities are buying the most over-the-counter cold and flu medicines:

  1. New York, NY
  2. St. Louis, MO
  3. Riverside, CA
  4. Denver, CO
  5. Phoenix, AZ

Pine-Sol, the new must-buy virus killer

Most home-cleaning products saw a significant spike in mid-March as people purchased every cleaning product they could find from grocery store shelves. By early June, sales for cleaning products started to equalize and match 2019 levels, but one cleaning product in particular — Pine-Sol — has gained new traction and recently skyrocketed in popularity. In late September, the Environmental Protection Agency approved Pine-Sol as a disinfectant capable of killing COVID-19 on surfaces. Since then, platform-wide searches for Pine-Sol have increased by 98%, making this disinfectant potentially harder to find in the weeks ahead.

Loading up on pantry and freezer items

According to Instacart Insights, searches for a variety of pantry, freezer, and home supply staples such as soup (+28%), chicken broth (+16%), toilet paper (+14%), frozen veggies (+7%), oatmeal (+6%), juice (+3%), and crackers (+2%) have started trending upwards and are among the top fastest-growing search terms from the past month. Perhaps people are simply shifting their buying habits as we change seasons or maybe consumers are starting to stock up early on some of the items that were especially popular at the beginning of the pandemic — only time and data will tell.

“It’s interesting to see toilet paper, one of our most searched items in 2020, experience a sizable search upswing yet again,” said Laurentia. “This could certainly be an early indicator that people are worried about another toilet paper shortage, so they’re starting to buy more now.”

As we head into fall and winter, it’s apparent that people are becoming more conscious of their health and safety in advance of the cold and flu season and a possible new wave of COVID cases. In these uncertain times, it can certainly help to plan ahead and be prepared.



Instacart is the leading grocery technology company in North America, partnering with more than 1,400 national, regional, and local retail banners to deliver from more than 80,000 stores across more than 14,000 cities in North America. To read more Instacart posts, you can browse the company blog or search by keyword using the search bar at the top of the page.

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