COVID-19 Causes Consumers to Hit Pause on Health Focus


CHICAGO — Stay-at-home advisories nationwide have forced consumers to revisit their health and wellness priorities as they've come to experience a drastic lifestyle shift.

According to new information from NPD Group's National Eating Trends service, as part of adjusting to this new normal, consumers are going back to the basics.

For example, in-home consumption has increased for eggs, cold cereal and bread. Additionally, the consumption of snacks and treats indicates that consumers are using some foods to help with boredom and keep their spirits up.

Consumers are also treating themselves with sweet indulgences more than they did last year. This April, nearly four in 10 said having snacks and treats on hand is part of their pantry strategy. The categories they’re stocking up with three or more items of are salty snacks, ice cream and cookies.

The consumption of snacks and treats is increasing, particularly sweets in the evening more than any other time of the day, reverses a decade-long trend away from evening snacking and toward more healthful options in the morning, NPD reported.

When it comes to snacking and treating, the market research firm also found that:

  • Along with the willingness to consume treats is a decline in the number of adults avoiding sugars — the first decline of this type in nearly a decade.
  • There are fewer adults avoiding sodium and alcohol now, which proves consumers are pausing their health goals and looking to foods and beverages for stress relief.

Consumers are also concerned about relieving the stress of health precautions. In early 2020, concerns about stress-eating increased as consumers followed their own diets. In April 2019, 17.3 percent of consumers said they were on a diet plan of their own making; that fell to 13.5 percent in April this year.

"Interestingly, many structured nutrition plans, such as Keto, maintained their participation rates. In a time of uncertainty, these plans may give consumers a sense of structure when other areas of their lives become disorganized or disrupted," said Darren Seifer, executive director, industry analyst, food consumption for NPD. "The only structured nutrition plan that lost ground in this period was intermittent fasting, which puts off eating until a specified hour in the day."

The pause on weight loss and overall wellness remains strong, suggesting consumers will go back to nutrition plans when they feel they can incorporate them back into their lives. In the meantime, marketers can focus on immunity strength, stress relief and structure, Seifer offered.

Chicago-based NPD Group offers data, industry expertise and prescriptive analytics to help clients grow their businesses.