PLANO, Texas — As the winter holidays approach, consumers are gearing up by stockpiling snacks — a result of the uneasiness brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Frito-Lay's latest U.S. Snack Index survey, 66 percent of consumers say they keep more snacks stocked at home than before the coronavirus outbreak. Going into the winter, 54 percent of shoppers are planning to stock up on essentials, with salty snacks the No. 5 category consumers are looking to stash away.
Among the top reasons for stockpiling essentials, including snacks, are concerns over out-of-stocks (66 percent) and reducing exposure to the virus (58 percent). But, above anything else, consumers say they are putting snacks in their pantries to add a little more fun to the days at home. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said they snack as a way to break up their day and 76 percent said eating snacks is a way to treat themselves.
U.S. Snack Index — which showcases how shopping, cooking and snacking trends have changed this year, and what's expected to have a lasting impact in 2021 and beyond — also revealed:
More than 300 percent of Americans plan to shop for holiday foods through an online retailer.
- Maintaining health and safety is a top concern (37 percent) for grocery shopping this holiday season, driving more consumers to adopt online grocery shopping.
- Fifty percent of Americans plan to shop for their holiday groceries through an online retailer, up from just 15 percent in 2019.
- Snacks are the most likely category to be purchased online for the holidays, with 77 percent of consumers saying they are likely to do so.
While holidays will look different, food will continue to play a major role.
- Most Americans (83 percent) plan to spend the same or more on groceries during the holidays and they are planning to shop three days earlier than usual to avoid crowds or out-of-stocks.
- Holiday gatherings will be much smaller this year: the median number of people at the main Thanksgiving meal is expected to be five this year, down from eight last year.
- When it comes to what's on the holiday spreads, Chicagoans ranked sweet snacks first at 61 percent, San Franciscans preferred chips and dips (58 percent) and more than half of Miamians (54 percent) are planning to serve cheese and meat platters.
Consumers are grocery shopping more during the week and online.
- While Saturday and Sunday used to be the traditional shopping days, consumers are now shopping throughout the week, with Wednesday and Thursday seeing an increase in store traffic.
- E-commerce grocery also remains high and is expected to stick. The average online basket is up 32 percent year-over-year and 75 percent of consumers intend to repeat with most recent online grocery provider in the next 30 days.
Cooking returns as most preferred form of entertainment amid a resurgence of COVID-19.
- Americans are not experiencing as much cooking fatigue as might be expected. Only 40 percent indicated they are tired of cooking at home.
- Nearly two-thirds of respondents (63 percent) plan to use cooking to stay entertained amid a resurgence of COVID-19, making it the most popular activity respondents said they'd partake in.
- Consumers are looking for new ways to spice up recipes, with 83 percent of respondents saying they have used or would try a snack food as an ingredient in a recipe, with potato chips (31 percent) and tortilla chips (32 percent) the most popular snack food ingredient.
- Sixty-three percent agreed they need more recipe inspiration, so PepsiCo recently launched MoreSmilesWithEveryBite.com, an online hub of family-friendly recipes featuring popular Frito-Lay snacks and Quaker foods.
Classic flavors are dominant as winter months set in.
- Americans are turning back to traditional comfort foods this season vs. trendy seasonal flavors. For example, 50 percent of respondents say they are excited for classic comfort foods and only 32 percent said they were excited for pumpkin spice.
- These preferences also vary regionally, with 54 percent of Chicagoans most looking forward to chili, 40 percent of Dallas residents excited about chicken tortilla soup, and 43 percent of New Yorkers leaning toward apple cinnamon flavors.
"Consumers have shifted their behavior with 58 percent snacking more since COVID-19, and shopping through new channels with online adoption up 40 percent," said Mike Del Pozzo, senior vice president of sales and chief customer officer, Frito-Lay North America. "This holiday season we expect to see more small gatherings and a move away from potlucks, which means more families purchasing the whole meal. In fact, 13 percent expect to spend more on groceries for Thanksgiving this year, so the importance of offering variety and accessibility of America's favorite snacks is a priority for Frito-Lay this holiday season."
"These consumer and marketplace changes have enabled us to reevaluate how we ensure our products are always and everywhere," added Del Pozzo. "Frito-Lay sets itself apart by owning every piece of the seed-to-shelf process, enabling agility to continuously innovate and meet consumer needs."
Polling for the most recent U.S Snack Index was conducted online by Morning Consult from Oct. 16-18 among 2,200 American adults from Chicago, Dallas, New York, Miami and San Francisco.
Plano-based Frito-Lay North America is the $17 billion convenient foods division of PepsiCo Inc., headquartered in White Plains, N.Y.