Infographic: How the Pandemic Has Altered Consumers’ Food and Eating Preferences

New data shows that Americans are changing how they view their meals due to Covid-19

people eating meals on trays and in their hands with masks on
Across generations, people are regarding food and food-related buying differently. Trent Joaquin/Getty Images
Headshot of Nicole Ortiz

Though it’s difficult to find many positives amid a global pandemic, new data from Hearst Magazines and GlobalWebIndex shows that cooking (and food in general) has been a beacon of hope for many.

GlobalWebIndex conducted its study from April through June, surveying more than 20,000 people. Hearst Magazines and B3 Intelligence conducted additional research in August on attitudes and preferences toward food.

Time spent cooking at home has almost doubled across all the generations polled (baby boomers, Gen X, millennials and Gen Z) as people spend less time eating at restaurants. For almost all generations polled (except Gen Z), ordering takeout has decreased substantially. And while there was initially worry about spreading the virus through touch, shopping in-store is still the preferred method for all demographics over grocery delivery.

Unsurprisingly, over three-quarters of Gen Z and 65% of millennials say that cooking and baking help ease stress and anxiety, which parallels flour brand King Arthur seeing a 2,000% rise in sales in April.

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Click to enlarge.

Additionally, all generations report opting to eat more plant-based and organic foods, with Gen Zers, who are more inclined to tap into food’s effects on current events such as rising natural disasters and climate change, leading the charge. There is also more of a push toward eating organic and eating less meat because people are prioritizing their health as a result of the pandemic.

In total, one in four households reported that they were looking to reduce meat consumption, and 33% have at least one family member following a specific diet (vegan, vegetarian, etc.). This also coincides with meat shortages hitting the country in the early days of the pandemic and uncertainty over how long the problem would persist.

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Click to enlarge.

“We think it’s equally important to support our advertising partners with insights to better understand what’s happening with the millions of consumers we interact with each day,” said Todd Haskell, svp, chief marketing officer at Hearst Magazines. “We are delighted to help partners think through recipe creation with the knowledge that families see food as an expression of heritage and identity, or to better understand how Gen Z sees increased pandemic cooking and baking as an exercise in self-care and creative expression. Most importantly, we want to help advertisers strategize on how to use these valuable insights to move their businesses forward and drive results.”

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Click to enlarge.

For many, food is also simply a strong connection to their cultures and families, and many reported putting a stronger emphasis on bonding over shared meals. Consumers want to buy more sustainable products that reflect their values, but in the end, they’re looking to connect with loved ones around a favorite dish, with over half of boomers, Gen X and Gen Z saying they refer to family recipes for inspiration.

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@neco_ornot nicole.ortiz@adweek.com Nicole Ortiz is a senior editor at Adweek, overseeing magazine departments such as Trending, Talent Pool, Data Points, Voice and Perspective.
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