Five Ways the Pandemic Reshaped Consumer Tastes and Behavior
How is the pandemic shaping consumer food demands? TH Foods shares five key trends, which range from comfort food cravings to plant-based energy boosts.
While the global pandemic continues to alter our day-to-day way of life, there are some facets we have grown more used to and trends we can observe after several months. For food manufacturers, this includes the way we eat and snack as we spend more time at home. From comfort foods to work-from-home friendly pre-packaged meals, here’s a look at food trends that continue to persist throughout the pandemic.
1. Craving Comfort
With our stress and anxiety levels increased during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that consumers are reaching for comforting flavors when snacking. In fact, two in three Americans are eating more comfort food during the pandemic. And while snack food flavors have trended toward bolder flavors, the pandemic also has people seeking familiar nostalgic flavors. Some of these top trending flavors include salt, cheddar, white cheddar, BBQ and butter.
2. Options for Oats
One healthier trend involves the steady interest in oats. Whether they’re drinking oat milk, waking up to a bowl of overnight oats or simply selecting foods with oats called out in the recipe, consumers continue to seek out this heart-healthy grain with better-for-you benefits. The shelf staple surged in U.S. sales by 477% during the week ending March 14 compared to the same period last year—one of the biggest increases of any food product, according to data compiled by Nielsen. Since the start of the pandemic, retail sales of oat milk grew to 212% with many experts believing that this dairy alternative may be here to stay.
3. Give Me a Boost
It takes lots of energy to power through a full day of video conferences and keep the kids on their e-learning schedule! Interestingly, 52% of consumers believe that plant-based foods provide mental energy for them to get through the day according to a study by Health Focus International. For consumers seeking extra energy from plant-based foods, brands can capitalize on this trend by enhancing product offerings with nuts such as almonds, pecans and walnuts.
4. Convenient Kits
Pre-packaged salads have been growing in popularity in recent years, with the Nielsen Perishables Group reporting that sales have increased at a rate of 6.5% annually since 2011. Sales have remained strong with millions seeking a convenient meal option at home, and bagged salads represented 17% of all organic produce sales in the third quarter of 2020. Food brands interested in capitalizing on the pre-packed salad trend may want to explore component kits that include heartier textures that will stick with consumers and add a signature crunch—such as a sesame stick—that people associate with feeling full.
5. Hosting at Home
Options for a night out are severely limited so at-home entertaining has become the new normal. Today’s consumers look to create restaurant quality charcuterie-and-cheese spreads at home and show it off on social media. With a 12.3% growth in sales since the start of the pandemic, it’s clear that crackers are a staple of entertaining at home. To help consumers find the perfect specialty cracker to pair with their cheeses, promote thin but sturdy options with a great crunch.
The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives, with the food we eat being no exception. By staying current with trends and demands, food brands can help consumers find comfort in the meals and snacks they eat at home.