- Eighty-two percent of consumers said that the pandemic has shifted what they eat and how they purchase food.
- Simple, straightforward shifts in cooking habits have proved more popular than trends like bread baking and buying new kitchen equipment.
- The under-45 crowd has seen considerable shakeups to what they eat, what they cook and how they acquire food.
- This year, most people are making major adjustments to their holiday routines, but a sizable group is not: over one in five (22%) say that their holiday plans have not changed compared with previous years.
- COVID-19-related “returns to normal” top the list of what excites people most about food in the new year, but coronavirus concerns will still weigh on the minds of many in 2021.
We’ve almost reached the end of 2020—twelve months that have been more challenging than we ever could have predicted, defined by the upheaval of many aspects of our lives. As we mark the end of this consequential year, IFIC has conducted a survey on what we know best: the world of food. In this research we learned more about how COVID-19 has shifted peoples’ eating, drinking and cooking habits; what diet trends were on our minds in 2020; how holiday plans have changed; and what we’re looking forward to and concerned about in the year ahead. The full report is linked above; here are a few key findings:
- While the COVID-19 pandemic has had sweeping negative impacts throughout 2020, one silver lining may be that for some, this time has provided an opportunity to focus on the healthfulness of their diets: Nearly one in three said their eating habits have become healthier over the past year. However, this finding was not balanced among all demographic groups: Younger people (those under age 45) were more likely to say that their diets had become healthier compared with older age groups, while women were more than twice as likely as men to say that their diets had become less healthy.
- In a year with so many shakeups in the way we obtain food—from a lack of indoor restaurant dining to supermarket shelf-product scarcity—it’s no surprise that COVID-19 has impacted the eating habits of most people. Eighty-two percent of consumers said that the pandemic has shifted what they eat and how they purchase food—and for many, these changes speak to the unique stressors of this point in time. Twenty-five percent said that they’re eating more comfort foods, one in five said that they’re eating more when they’re stressed or anxious, and 19% said that financial hardships have changed the foods that they purchase.
- Despite everything we heard about banana bread, sourdough baking and new at-home gourmet coffee set-ups, the largest shifts in cooking habits seem to be much more straightforward. Over one-third of survey respondents said they’ve been cooking more simple, easy-to-prepare foods; 30% have tried new recipes; and 23% have cooked more with their family. In comparison, just 17% have baked more bread or other baked goods and 14% have purchased new kitchen equipment. We also found that half of consumers say they’re now more likely to cook meals from scratch compared with pre-pandemic times.
- Caffeinated and functional beverages have seen net gains in consumption. Nearly three in ten (28%) said they’re drinking more caffeinated beverages this year, and 21% said their consumption of functional beverages—i.e., drinks containing vitamins, minerals, herbs and other nutrients intended to provide a health benefit—has increased.
- “Plant-based” topped the list of diets heard about most in the news this year. Twenty-two percent said they’d heard the most about this somewhat-undefined diet type, compared with those who heard the most about a ketogenic/high-fat diet (15%), Mediterranean diet (7%) and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet (5%).
- Over the past year, the under-45 crowd has seen considerable shakeups in what they eat, what they cook and how they acquire food. Despite an increase in from-scratch cooking overall, the age group known for not feeling as comfortable in the kitchen seems to have seen this trend continue into the pandemic. People under age 45 were twice as likely as those 65+ to be ordering takeout or delivery more often since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’re also much more likely to have purchased cooking or meal kits or subscribed to a fresh food delivery or pick-up service over the past year. This holiday season, they’re more likely to be ordering pre-prepared food from a restaurant or a grocery store for their festivities than those older than 45. Lastly, this group seems to be more dialed into sustainability and plant protein than their older counterparts: They’ve been more likely to seek out environmentally friendly foods and beverages as well as dairy and meat alternatives since the start of COVID-19.
- Most people are making major adjustments to their holiday routines—but a sizable group is not. Nearly one-third (32%) said they’re not travelling like they normally would, while 23% said they’re attending smaller gatherings than normal and/or are connecting virtually with family and friends. However, over one in five (22%) say that their holiday plans have not changed.
- COVID-19–related “returns to normal” top the list of what excites people most about food in the new year, but coronavirus concerns will still weigh on the minds of many in 2021. When asked what excites them the most when it comes to food in the year ahead, the most popular responses were eating with friends and family more often (29%), not worrying as much about COVID-19 when shopping for food or dining out (27%) and going out to restaurants more often (23%). This anticipation was highest in those 65 and older, an age group that is more at risk and that has often been more isolated throughout the pandemic. At the same time, there is a clear level of worry about the pandemic’s ongoing impacts in the year ahead: nearly two in five (39%) say that risk for COVID-19 while shopping or dining out is one of their top concerns, and 28% are worried about being able to afford enough food for their household.
One thousand online interviews were conducted among U.S. adults ages 18+ from December 3–5, 2020, and were weighted to ensure proportional results. The margin of error was ±3.1% at the 95% confidence level.
IFIC has been tracking the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food purchasing, eating behaviors and perceptions of food safety since April 2020. To learn more about these findings, click on the following links:
- A Continued Look at COVID-19’s Impact on Food Purchasing, Eating Behaviors and Perceptions of Food Safety
- Eating and Shopping During a Global Pandemic
- 2020 Food and Health Survey