Cravings of Comfort and Health – During COVID

There’s no denying that Covid has changed how and what food consumers purchase. According to Food manufacturing, 72% of consumers are shopping less often during COVID-19, opting for stocking up. There’s also a move towards online food shopping, with 78.7% of US shoppers purchasing their groceries online, according to Supermarket News. Regardless of how they’re purchasing, online or in stores, and how frequent, we’re seeing two types of consumers emerging — those craving comfort and those drawn towards food’s health benefits. 

Knowing and understanding these shifts in cravings can help you to better determine what products to stock and promote.  Let’s dive into the types of cravings and what foods consumers desire right now.

Craving Comfort

Consumers are craving indulgent comfort foods, and that’s with good reason.  According to strategic consulting firm, LRW, comfort foods evoke fond memories of friends, family, and childhood  — something customers are longing for, particularly during social distancing.  It’s no wonder that, according to Food Dive, 37% of consumers said they stocked up on salty snacks and frozen sweet snacks during the month of April.  

Chocolate an iconic dessert of childhood, is leading comforting sweet snacks in sales, raking in about $3.7 billion during the pandemic, according to USA Today.  Another contender in the sweets category: cookies, evoking the feelings of baking with loved ones, with sales of variety packs up 20.3% as reported by Statista.

Statista also reports that salty cravings are not too far behind sweet desires, with the sales of salty snacks increasing 14%. Potato chips are leading the trend of salty snacktime picks and conjuring memories of get-togethers, with sales up 60%, according to Fox Business. Second is tortilla chips, another party favorite,  up 49%, according to NBC DFW.

Health Cravings

While some consumers are drawn to food for comfort, others are attracted by food’s health values. According to Food Dive, those items attracting the most attention during the pandemic are foods that boost immunity, metabolism, and mental state.  

Kombucha  is one such immunity and metabolism boosting food that’s on the rise, experiencing a 25.9% increase over last year, according to Business Insider.  Another perk-up pick- herbal tea, including blends like chamomile and lavender, said to relieve stress and boost immunity.  In fact, the entire herbal tea industry  saw an online sales increase of 100% – 300%, according to Forbes.

While some of the healthy food cravings are new, there are many consumers sticking to the trends we observed prior to the pandemic like organic food and drinks.  In fact, organic food has experienced an increase of 25% during the pandemic, according to Bloomberg.  With customers’ cravings for organic predicted to continue, we anticipate a return to what we call the “no list” of health call outs for snacks that will appeal to customers.

Plant-based foods are another “healthy food” category enjoying an increase in sales during the pandemic as consumers try to eat healthier and are on the hunt for shelf-stable alternatives to milk.  We saw an 148% increase in plant-based meat sales, according to Food Dive. Dairy alternatives like oat milk saw a 476.7% increase in the week ending in March 14, according to Smartbrief. Expect to see a continuation in the popularity of plant-based foods well after the pandemic as customers continue to demand sustainable products with lower environmental impact.

With customers shopping less frequently, retailers need to do all they can to gain their attention. Whether it’s indulgent or healthful that consumers are seeking, calling out products that satisfy top cravings can reinforce business loyalty while helping to drive sales.  Consider creating dedicated sections closer to your store’s main entrance stocked with plant-based foods, chocolate, and other top trends to create the ideal impulse opportunity. If the majority of your shoppers are online, this same section can be a call out on the homepage of your website, linking to a page with food from that dedicated category. Little changes like this demonstrate to customers that you’re listening, and during unprecedented times like this, your attention to detail goes a long way.

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