When the pandemic hit the U.S. in full force, the grocery shopping habits in our house immediately changed. Our online grocery carts were suddenly filled with salty, sugary, pre-packaged snacks: bite-sized Snickers, Mac-n-cheese in cups, Wheat Thins for days. All of these “treats” had long shelf-lives, and were easy to grab as we gobbled up our anxieties.
We were definitely not alone with our snacking. According to new data from the NPD Group’s Snack Food Behaviors in Challenging Times study, snack food consumption is up 8 percent during the pandemic. For comparison, during The Great Recession between 2008 and 2010, snack food saw a 1 percent increase.
From the NPD press announcement:
In April, during the height of the shelter-at-home orders, 37% of consumers told NPD they wanted to make sure they had sufficient snack foods on hand. They were well-stocked on salty snacks and frozen sweets more than other items. Also, in many cases, the more snack food packages in the home, the more frequently the item is consumed, which tends to be especially true of certain types of snack foods. For example, consumers who have five or more packages of crackers or salty snacks consume those foods at higher rates than consumers with fewer packages in their home.
Of course, the fact that people are buying tons of cookies and crackers isn’t necessarily a good thing. Chips and cookies can be cheaper than fruits and vegetables and last a lot longer, making them a much more attractive option for a nation experiencing record job losses. So the more affordable option is not the healthier one, reinforcing certain equity divides.
With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, and states halting re-opening plans, we’ll have to see if our snacking stays the same.