Correction & Clarification: An earlier version of this story misstated the nature of the products sold by Keurig Dr. Pepper and CEO Robert Gamgort’s comments about them.
Let’s call this the judgment free zone until further notice.
Americans enjoy comforting food because a coronavirus pandemic keeps them locked in, eating sweet cereals, junk food, frozen pizza, and other items that may not be too healthy to help them get through a pandemic.
This trend is a reversal of national gravity towards more natural food in recent years, which has benefited products considered healthier.
But sudden bursts of stress, boredom and, in some cases, lack of alternatives have changed people’s habits, at least temporarily. Beware of the waist.
While heaps of toilet paper and hand sanitizers whenever they could find them, Americans took familiar items such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereals, carp crackers, baked goods and dairy products.
“People seem to want good food,” said Kai Bockmann, president of the maker of Saputo dairy products, who reported an increase in rope cheese sales.
Breakfast is back
Breakfast, in particular, enjoys a sudden awakening.
“I think families are turning to things like cereal to instill a sense of what is familiar, what is normal, something they believe in,” said Ricardo Fernandez, president of the US cereal business at General Mills, where cereal sales such as Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Trix and Lucky Charms are booming. “People who don’t usually have breakfast might come back for breakfast because their normal routine has been interrupted.”
Coronavirus and inventory shopping:Reach toilet paper shortages
Ban on reverse plastic bags:Countries, cities, shops suddenly prohibit reusable bags during coronavirus
Stress eating and coronavirus:WW launches Zoom virtual workshop
Sales of milk, which is closely related to cereals, jumped 60% in the week ending March 22, compared to the previous year, according to IRI, a market research company based in Chicago. That increase marked a sudden reversal for products such as liquid milk, which has declined in popularity over the years.
Suddenly, the kitchen table was filled with parents and children who ate side by side.
“It’s a bit like that, if you want,” said Michael Dykes, CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, whose members include milk processors, farm stalls and retailers such as Kroger and Safeway. “They were all there without purpose, so they ate together as a family. They had breakfast together.”
Fernandez said the General Mills plant was operating at full capacity to help meet the demand from consumers who fill kitchens for company cereals.
“We are seeing a surge across the board,” he said, adding that General Mills had taken extra precautions to protect workers and ensure food safety. “Of course there are many consumers piled up at home.”
Kellogg, who sells Frosted Flakes and Pop Tarts, declined interview requests for this story. But the company has seen sales increase across its product lines, spokesman Kris Bahner said in an email.
Reach snacks and snacks
Another sign of a soothing food boom: Americans seem to bake more and consume more sweets than usual at home.
McCormick ingredients seller reported a sharp increase in vanilla sales, a key ingredient in some cakes.
Steve Presley, CEO of Nestlé USA, said in comments sent by e-mail that the company’s baking brands, including Nestlé Toll House and Carnation performed strongly “because consumers receive intimate and entertaining treats that they know and love.”
Overall, sales of fresh and packaged bread items in the week ending March 22 jumped 37%, compared to the previous year, according to IRI.
In general, snacks enjoy a party, according to companies like Conagra Brands, which sells Slim Jim jerky and Orville Redenbacher popcorn.
“We see very high speeds in multi-serve, single-serve snacks,” Conagra Brands CEO Sean Connolly said at a conference call with investors and analysts on March 31.
Goldfish Campbell cracker sales increased 23% in the four weeks ended March 15, compared to the previous year, according to IRI.
Spam, made by Hormel, is among products that experience “strong demand,” the company said in a statement.
The challenge for “stable on the shelf” food sellers such as cereals and dry snacks such as Kellogg’s Cheez-It crackers is to maintain momentum whenever the corona virus finally subsides.
“Despite strong growth over the past few weeks, this momentum seems unsustainable because people are likely to have pantries full of cereals and will likely not have immediate demand for more after easing social distance,” said Jacqueline Hiner, an analyst for research firms IBISWorld.
“However, there is potential for some ongoing demand from consumers who continue to maintain their pantries with nonperishables to stay ready for potential similar events in the future as well as requests from those who change breakfast preferences for cereals.”
Follow Today’s USA reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
to request modification Contact us at Here or [email protected]