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Shoppers stock up on indulgent treats for comfort during COVID-19 crisis

U.S. consumers have historically turned to snack foods to soothe themselves during challenging times, but this behavior has reached new heights during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. consumers have a tendency to turn to snack foods for comfort and enjoyment during trying tmes. Given both the economic and well-being stressors related to COVID-19, indulgent snacking is playing an even more important role right now. Snack food consumption has increased by 8% during the pandemic as consumers seek comfort through savory and sweet snacks, according to NPD's Snack Food Behaviors in Challenging Times study. During the Great Recession, between 2008 and 2010, snack food consumption increased by 4.8 billion eatings, a 1% increase. 

In April, when shelter-at-home orders were most strict, 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; this 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 homes. 

"We've seen consumers turn to indulgent snack foods in other challenging times, and although history isn't repeating itself during COVID, it is rhyming," says Darren Seifer, NPD's food and beverage industry analyst. "Although we can't predict what's going to happen in the future, I think it's safe to say snack food manufacturers and retailers can expect elevated snack food usage while COVID-19 restricts our restaurant usage and overall movement, in particular school closings and work from home orders."

Source: The NPD Group, Inc.

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