The Pandemic Pantry: Six Food Trends Accelerated by COVID-19

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Restaurants are closed and options for takeout are limited, forcing consumers to cook for themselves. Lockdown measures have surfaced new norms — stockpiling canned goods, a return to comfort foods, and a sudden obsession with banana bread — proving that many habits are shared when eating through a crisis.

In general, search queries have revealed a conservative and cautious outlook, favoring food and beverages that are comfort-inducing and familiar. Although many people are now ditching their complex diets, they’re staying true to the plant-based lifestyle. Demand for vegan-friendly favorites (think enchiladas, mac and cheese, and brownies) are at an all-time high.

Consumers want to boost their immunity with syrups and supplements. They’re also staying connected and whipping up recipes they saw on social media. Cottagecore is the TikTok-born movement inspiring self-sufficient consumers to bake bread and mix up herbal remedies from ingredients found in their garden. Whipped coffee and matcha beverages are the absurdly photogenic food trend that popped up on social platforms. #whippedcoffee has been tagged in 1.6B posts on TikTok, and spin-offs such as #whippedmatcha and #whippednutella have been tagged in 386K and 11.6K posts, respectively.

Prior to the pandemic, zero-proof beverages and meat-free alternatives were a few of the most promising food trends to watch. Despite reports that alcohol sales are booming, Gen Z and young millennials are likely to stay sober during the pandemic, while baby boomers, Gen X, and older millennials will lead the shift back to booze. So far, concern over health and safety has only accelerated the demand for these health-conscious options.

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1. Vegan Comfort Food

Comfort food is making a comeback, as consumers seek familiarity and convenience during the lockdown. Despite the number of diets on the decline (see page 8), demand for vegan-friendly comfort food (think: enchiladas, mac and cheese, and brownies) is at an all-time high, and set to grow as specialists tout the importance of a preventative diet. According to infectious disease expert Dr. Michael Greger, those following a plant-based lifestyle have much lower rates of pre-existing conditions (hypertension, high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease) that increase the risk of infection.

  • Vegan Baking +55% to LY
  • Vegan Enchiladas +30% to LY
  • Vegan Cookies +28% to LY
  • Vegan Mac + Cheese +27% to LY
  • Vegan Brownies +19% to LY

2. Caffeine Craze

Whipped coffee and matcha beverages are the new, absurdly photogenic trend popping up on social media. The Instaworthy recipe has made its way stateside, curbing consumers craving for a coffee shop stop. #whippedcoffee has been tagged in 1.6B posts on TikTok, and spin-offs such as #whippedmatcha and #whippednutella have been tagged in 386K and 11.6K posts, respectively.

  • Whipped Coffee +5,333% to LY
  • Whipped Matcha +397% to LY
  • Matcha Latte +47% to LY
  • Iced Coffee +18% to LY

3. Cottagecore

A celebration of rural domesticity, cottagecore is the idealistic aesthetic driving demand for the simple pleasures in life. Offering an escape away from our stressful world, the agricultural lifestyle is inspiring self-sufficient consumers to bake homemade bread and mix up herbal remedies. The aesthetic is huge on Instagram: #cottagecore has been tagged in over 200K posts, and spin-offs such as #farmcore and #cottagecoreaesthetic have been tagged in 52K and 28K posts, respectively.

  • Baking Yeast +166% to LY
  • Homemade Bread +103% to LY
  • Banana Bread +74% to LY
  • Mugwort +50% to LY
  • Licorice Root +15% to LY
  • Willow Bark +14% to LY

4. Immunity 2.0

Although there is no scientific evidence that a diet of immunity-boosting ingredients can prevent or cure COVID-19, consumers are expressing interest and brands are capitalizing on it. According to Facebook’s ad library, which analyzes Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram, several brands started to advertise products linked to the immune system in March as the pandemic began its spread across the United States. These treatments include ingredients like elderberry, echinacea, and vitamin C.

  • Immunity Supplement +202% to LY
  • Elderberry +147% to LY
  • Vitamin C +101% to LY
  • Elderberry Syrup +86% to LY
  • Echinacea +69% to LY

5. Sober Curious

Since 2000, the number of people in the world who drink has declined nearly 5%, according to the World Health Organization. Gen Z and young millennials are most likely to stay sober during the pandemic, while baby boomers, Gen X, and older millennials will lead the shift back to booze. Lockdown drinking is a slippery slope that health-conscious consumers are avoiding, not only because drinking undermines immunity, but because of its contribution to mental health problems.

  • Nonalcoholic Beer +133% to LY
  • Mocktail +63% to LY

6. Diet Starts Tomorrow

The COVID-19 crisis has changed a lot about how people eat: they’re cooking more, going to the grocery store less, and ditching their complex diets. Shelf-stable foods like flour, sugar, and canned vegetables are not exactly staples of a wholesome diet, but have surged in popularity as health officials are urging Americans to go to the grocery store as infrequently as possible. The isolation and lack of structure may be behind the decline in diets, but perhaps these food “choices” aren’t choices at all. Consumers living in “food deserts” have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats.

  • Tom Brady Diet -81% to LY
  • Alkaline Diet -47% to LY
  • Carb Cycling Diet -46% to LY
  • Dukan Diet -43% to LY
  • Gluten-Free Diet -32% to LY
  • Atkins Diet -30% to LY
  • Dash Diet -30% to LY

If you’re interested in becoming a member and want to learn more about trends that are growing — and dying, please contact hello@trendalytics.co.

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