Coping with 2020: Comfort foods, cooking, and baking the new methods.

From sourdough breads to elaborate dinners, consumers across the world have adjusted to a life filled with more time in the kitchen. 2020 saw significantly increased sales at the grocery stores, with much of these sales being the target for recipes and comfort treats.

Food and beverage manufacturers have greatly benefitted from this new consumer behavior, which was largely used as ways to cope with stress and increase productivity rates in the home.

Nostalgic snacking goes up

As mentioned in a previous blog, this year has seen a major uptick in terms of nostalgic shopping. In the summer, sales for Campbell’s Soup soared 59% from the previous year, and J.M. Smucker, whose sales were steadily declining as healthy foods continued to trend, have also increased profits because shoppers have been purchasing their products for comfort.

In the US, a survey of 2,000 Americans found that 2 out of 3 participants were eating more comfort foods as a response to the pandemic. This survey stated that in times of stress brought on by the pandemic, 41% turned to nostalgic comfort foods to bring happiness, with the average person indulging in a comfort or childhood-favorite meal at least 5 times a week. Similarly, in Australia, over 20% of a surveyed population of 1,000 people admitted to consuming more snack foods than before Covid-19 struck.

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Additionally, in a study published in the research journal Food Quality and Preference, researchers compiled a list of keywords and internet searches that were notably triggered during the early stages of the pandemic in Spring. These researchers sent out a questionnaire asking what the motivation was for purchasing these keywords more often than before the pandemic. For the word “chocolate,” for example, consumers cited the reasons “It cheers me up if I am sad,” “It helps me to combat stress.”

Source: Laguna, L., Fiszman, S., Puerta, P., Chaya, C., & Tárrega, A. (2020). The impact of COVID-19 lockdown on food priorities. Results from a preliminary study using social media and an online survey with Spanish consumers. Food quality and preference, 86, 104028. Figure 4.

As you can see in the quadrant which has been marked to highlight this information, consumers were swayed to purchase snack and comfort foods more for emotional reasons.
While healthy food has been on the rise this year, it seems that consumers also care a lot about the comforts their food can bring them. People who were previously strict about no-snack diets loosened the reigns a bit and relaxed the rules in order to get through the dismal nature of the pandemic.

Home cooking is here to stay

Covid-19 has also sparked the resurgence of home cooking. While initially a response out of need, home cooking has persisted throughout the year to develop as a hobby or interest of sorts. Aside from the closures of restaurants during lockdown, some factors for home cooking after lockdown lifted included:

  • Safety concerns on behalf of eating in public restaurants
  • Lack of work commute meaning there’s no reason to stop at a place to grab a quick bite to eat
  • Financial concerns where home cooking was notably cheaper
  • Stronger awareness of where ingredients are coming from and being handled as opposed to food from a restaurant
  • General interest in cooking

For many people, particularly younger generations, cooking has become a fun activity to fill time while social distancing is still necessary. While home cooking was at first an activity that needed to be done, it has now become a way of “coping” through the pandemic. People had time to properly research for and make meals, which many gladly enjoyed doing. One survey conducted by Bloomberg cited that 43% of Generation Z respondents said they intend to cook at home even after the pandemic is over. Among these generations, Instagram and other social media platforms have been highly popular for finding interesting new recipes. Even families have felt generally better about home cooking because it has meant that they have had the time and space to cook and eat together more often than usual.

Baking as the new stress reducer

Much like home cooking, baking has really taken off this year. For those who remember, Spring and early Summer were largely characterized by sourdough starters and bread baking. Social media was full of recipes and tips for bread and other baking activities like cakes, cookies, etc.

Yeast flew off the shelves like never before, with a 647% increase of yeast sales in the US in March. Canada showed similar statistics with their sales also skyrocketing during these early months. Shortages for these ingredients were seen in many countries across the world, as grocery stores sold out for a number of weeks before they could replenish stock again.

The behavior around baking is similar to that of cooking, as many consumers cited taking this activity up for the sake of stress relief. Perhaps even more arduous and time consuming than cooking, baking requires a lot of time and effort that could not be found before lockdowns happened and people began working from home. Sourdough starters, yeast risers, and dough kneading has allowed consumers to be productive, which is something many people were begging for when shut out from the rest of their normal lives.

Comfort wins

Despite the Covid-19 crisis, people have learned to lean on comfort this year. Many have harkened back to nostalgic meals and treats, while others have adopted interesting cooking routines and baking exercises. For food and beverage manufacturers, this trend has been a big win because it has meant that the grocery stores their products are being sold in have grown all the more popular.

2020-12-18T09:35:45+01:00Food & Compliance|
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