Consumer data analysis firm Catalina reports two years into the coronavirus pandemic, Americans are snapping up certain packaged foods at a rapid clip, and there’s little evidence the trend is slowing much.
Bacon, refrigerated snacks and cakes, cheese, breaded frozen vegetables, and frozen cookie and brownie dough, are the big winners. Consumers also are still dabbling in baking although making breads and cakes from scratch has begun to fall flat.
“Three of the top 10 categories [of consumer packaged goods] are foods that continue to show an increased appetite for convenience and/or comfort,” Catalina said in a press release.
Nutritionist Isla Zyair said the growth likely reflects consumers’ desire to make home food preparation easier.
“Products like bacon, refrigerated snacks and breaded vegetables make life a bit easier because they can be consumed readily with minimal effort in the kitchen. These items can easily be popped into a microwave oven or an air-fryer and you’ve got yourself a hassle-free meal in a matter of minutes,” Zyair told The Food Institute.
The Catalina data showed bacon sales are up 230% from 2020 while refrigerated snacks and cakes increased 133%. Breaded frozen vegetables rose 129%. Cheese gained 83% from two years ago, and frozen cookie and brownie dough was up 74%.
Bacon wasn’t always a superstar in the food world. The Farmers Almanac noted (Dec. 28) bacon struggled in the 1980s and 1990s until the advent of low-carb diets. Statista reported Americans spent $1.42 billion on bacon in 2021.
U.S. consumers bought $94.8 billion in refrigerated snacks in 2020, and Allied Market Research estimated that figure would grow to $165.4 billion by 2030.
But when it comes to baking, the dough isn’t rising as rapidly.
“The rise of home baking as a hobby has stuck, though not at the same level as year 1, as categories like flour, condensed milk, baking extracts and waxed paper products have fallen, but are still higher than prepandemic levels. Scratch baking may not be quite as popular with yeast sales continuing to decline [off 23% from 2020 levels and dropping 27% in the last year] over the past year, but brownie, cookie and cornbread mixes continue to sell well,” Catalina said.
What’s the next big trend in convenience food sales?
Julie Altobello, senior marketing manager, health and authenticity for Rich Products, said the plant-based category is poised for explosive growth. She noted sales of plant-based products are growing 35% faster than traditional foods.
“Consumer desire for balance and wellness, transparency in ingredients and food safety as well as having a positive impact and contribution to the overall health of the environment, are driving this growth. We’re talking about plant-based alternatives to traditional comfort foods, like cauliflower pizza crusts, rolls, and slices and shreds,” she told The Food Institute.