American consumers’ food purchasing and eating habits amid the COVID-19 pandemic have ranged from consuming more nostalgic and indulgent food to snacking more often. The pandemic has also triggered 69 percent of Americans to be more concerned about food safety, with more than half of Americans worried they will contract the coronavirus through the food they eat. Additionally, General Mills and Campbell Soup Company are two large American food manufacturers that are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with specific food safety measures in place.
Consumer Food Purchasing Insights
Nostalgic and Indulgent Food
- Along with stocking up on pantry staples, there’s also an increase in consumers purchasing “nostalgic and indulgent food and beverage” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- These items include alcohol, soft drinks, and chocolate.
- With many restaurants closed, consumers also “are turning to old standbys that they may not have had in years or even decades.”
- In March 2020, sales of Campbell’s soup increased 59 percent from the previous year, while Prego pasta sauce soared 52 percent and its Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers rose almost 23 percent.
- According to the New York Times, shoppers are currently purchasing food that either reminds them of their childhood or comforts them during stressful times. These in-demand food products include cereals and macaroni and cheese.
- WalletHub reported that 43 percent of Americans have turned to “comfort buying” during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Nielsen reported that alcohol sales have spiked in the United States, and The Harris Poll found that one in five Americans are drinking more alcohol during the pandemic.
- The International Food Information Council’s recent survey of 1,000 consumers aged over 18 found that 27 percent of Americans are snacking more often.
- The Harris Poll also interviewed 2,013 American adults from April 11-13, and found that 40 percent of respondents were snacking more since the pandemic began.
- According to The Harris Poll, 26 percent of millennials and Generation Z, as well as 20 percent of men, are eating more fast food.
- The Harris Poll also found that 26 percent of respondents are snacking on chocolate, while 25 percent are consuming more soda and 20 percent are drinking more alcohol.
- According to the G&S Business Communications, most Americans’ perceptions toward food safety and availability are changing due to the coronavirus.
- G&S Business Communications found that 77 percent of Americans are more concerned about food availability, food safety at 69 percent, affordability at 58 percent, and quality at 52 percent as a result of the coronavirus.
- More than half of Americans (54%) also reported that “they are at least somewhat concerned about contracting the coronavirus through the food they eat, while nearly two-thirds (66%) are at least somewhat concerned about contracting the disease through food packaging.”
- When it comes to cleaning measures, 47 percent of Americans reported that “they are spending more time washing their produce” and 24 percent said they are cleaning their produce with a disinfectant. Additionally, 44 percent of Americans said they are using disinfectants to clean food packaging.
- Americans believe “grocery stores (83%), restaurants (75%), food processing facilities (68%), food packaging companies (66%), food shipping companies (56%), and farms and ranches (45%)” should explain to the public how they are keeping the food supply safe.
- General Mills has experienced increases in almost all of its products, from Progresso Soup to Cheerios cereal, during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s retail sales in the U.S. were in the low double-digits in the week ending on March 7.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, General Mills is holding daily supply chain meetings and operating a control tower in North America, where employees and systems are working 24/7 to understand issues and challenges, as well as balancing where they are seeing a demand and what lines and “products are running.”
- General Mills’ chief supply chain officer said they are figuring out what to produce the most of to make sure they are being productive and making “as much food as is possible during this time.”
- Since most of General Mills’ supply team works remotely, they are leveraging technology to communicate and troubleshoot problems virtually.
- The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved of the company’s “food operating practices.”
- General Mills is ensuring that social distancing measures are in place, cleaning and sanitizing common areas, and allowing employees to have private breaks in conference rooms or personal vehicles.
Campbell Soup Company
- The Campbell Soup Company reported its Meals & Beverages division saw more case orders for the week ending March 21 “than the entire month of March 2019. Compared to a year ago, the weekly case order was up 366%.”
- Campbell’s “Snacks plant in Richmond, Utah” produced over “two million pounds of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish and cookies in the week ending March 21, 2020.”
- To ensure that there is enough food available, Campbell has increased manufacturing, production schedules, and the variety of food products that are produced.
- Campbell’s Quality and Occupational Health & Safety teams have “increased hygiene, sanitation, and screening initiatives to keep” employees safe at all of the company’s plants and distribution centers.
- Some safety measures Campbell has implemented are multiple daily cleaning procedures, health screenings including temperature checks before employees start their shift, and suspension of plant tours.
- Campbell is also not allowing visitors on-site, and its on-site stores are closed to the public.
- Additionally, employees have to practice social distancing measures on the job, and Campbell has set up “protocols to identify potential exposure following the CDC’s guidance on quarantines.”