Healthy eating may be trendy – but emotional purchases still play an important role
In a study published by the journal Food Quality and Preference , researchers compiled a list of keywords that were searched for particularly frequently in the first wave of the pandemic.
These researchers then sent out a questionnaire asking why they were buying these products more often than before the pandemic. For example, consumers gave the reasons for the word “chocolate”: “It cheers me up when I’m sad” or “It helps me deal with stress”. As you can see in the highlighted quadrant, consumers were more likely to resort to snacks and quick meals for emotional reasons. While healthy eating is on the rise this year, it seems that consumers are also concerned about the convenience that food brings them.
People who used to strictly refrain from snacks have now loosened the reins a little to weather the murky nature of the pandemic.
COVID-19 is making people cook at home again
Originally a reaction to necessity, over the course of the year home cooking has developed into a kind of hobby or interest. Aside from the closure of restaurants during the lockdown, other factors were also relevant:
- Safety concerns about eating in public restaurants
- No way to work, which means there’s no need to stop for a quick bite
- Financial concerns as home cooking was significantly cheaper
- Greater awareness of where the ingredients come from and how they are processed, as opposed to food from a restaurant
Understanding General interest in cooking
For many people – especially the younger generation – cooking has become a fun activity to fill up in time during lockdown. While cooking at home was initially an activity that needed to be done, it has now become a form of “pandemic management” of sorts. People had time to do proper research and prepare meals, which many were happy to do. In a survey conducted by Bloomberg , 43% of Generation Z respondents said they want to cook at home even after the pandemic. With this generation, Instagram and other social media platforms are very popular for finding interesting new recipes. Even families have generally felt more comfortable cooking at home – because it helped them more time together .
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Baking as the new stress reliever
Similar to cooking at home, baking has really picked up speed this time.
Yeast flew off the shelves like never before, with a 647 percent increase in yeast sales in the US in March. Canada showed similar statistics – sales soared there in the first few months as well. There were shortages of these ingredients in many countries around the world. Grocery stores sold out for several weeks before they could replenish their stocks.
The behavior around baking is similar to that of cooking: many consumers said they took up this activity to reduce stress . Perhaps even more tedious and time consuming than cooking, baking takes a lot of time and effort. Before the lockdown it was hard to come up with it. Sourdough starters, yeast levels, and dough kneading have enabled consumers to be productive. And that was something that many people longed for incredibly when they were cut off from their usual lives.
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, this year people have learned to rely on comfort. Many have returned to nostalgic meals and delicacies, others have acquired interesting cooking and baking recipes. For the food industry, this trend was a clear win.