Covid Comfort

In the COVID-19 pandemic, one way of dealing with the stress, uncertainty and social isolation has been a greater indulgence in comfort food.  This is one of the most strongly predicted outcomes of our all-too human drive towards equilibrium.

A poll of 2,000 Americans found that two in three are reverting to childhood food favourites and eating more comfort food during the pandemic. That includes pizza (55%), hamburgers (48%), ice cream (46%), French fries (45%), mac and cheese (38%), spaghetti and meatballs (32%) among others.

The study looked at the eating habits of a sample of 2,000 Americans between the ages of 18-55+ during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The results indicated that the average person was enjoying comfort meals at least five times a week and snacks six times a week in 2020. 

Detailed findings

  • 69% say they’ll continue to enjoy the same amount of comfort food that they are now, post-pandemic.
  • Americans are spending 30 more minutes each day cooking in the kitchen compared to the same time last year.
  • 41% reach for comfort food to bring happiness.
  • 85% have gained a few pounds staying at home: an extra six pounds on average.
  • 67% would rather give up alcohol instead of their favorite comfort food dish.
  • 90% say their online and social searches for food inspiration have increased during the pandemic.
  • The comfort food meal everyone is most looking forward to enjoying at a restaurant post-pandemic is steak.

Happiness

The report continues: “When asked what they’d rather give up for a year, 67% would rather give up alcohol instead of their favourite comfort food dish, and 67% would also give up social media over having to be without their go-to indulgent dish for a year.”

Respondents have little reserve in showing off their “crave-worthy plates”: “nearly half (49%) of those aged 26-41 have posted a picture of a meal on social media while in lockdown, with men sharing two times as much as women. Almost everyone is turning to the web and social media for inspiration with all this extra time at home – over 90% say their online and social searches for food inspiration have increased during the pandemic.”

More home time also means more time sharing food around the family dinner table. Two-thirds reveal they’ve been spending more time eating meals together at the kitchen or dining room table. For many this has been a welcome change with 70% saying “they’ll genuinely miss all the time they got to gather around the family table once the pandemic is over and things get back to normal”.

“When things are uneasy, it’s the little joys that get us through, whether that’s FaceTiming with family and friends or stronger bonds made over homecooked meals,” says Ciera Womack, Farm Rich Senior Marketing Manager. “And as these responses show, sometimes it’s seeking comfort in certain foods which provide us more relief.”

According to the poll, 41% say they reach for comfort foods because they bring them happiness, while 39% say these types of foods provide them with something to look forward to in these uncertain times. And 33% say it offers “stress relief.”

Thirty-five percent would name their kid “Pizza” for a lifetime supply!

Boys eating pizza together

Now that would be a really serious commitment! According to the survey report, Americans hold such a special place for feel-good foods and nostalgic childhood dishes that they would even name their kid after their favourite for a lifetime supply of it. Thirty-five percent would name their kid “Pizza” for a lifetime supply of it, 28% would name their kid “Mozz Stick” and 27% “Ice Cream.” Amazing! Imagine these poor kids in a class roll at prep school: Pizza, yes sir, Moxx Stick, please sir, Ice Cream, three bags full!

When asked what characteristics make meals or snacks comforting, 47% associate them with great taste, 36% say foods that enhance their mood or make them feel better are what makes something “comfort food” and 34% associate these types of foods with indulgence. No matter when — whether stressful or happy — 38% reach for indulgent food as a reward or treat.

As more restaurants open back up for business, the comfort food meal everyone is most looking forward to enjoying at these establishments is steak (top spot at 30%), followed closely by burgers (27%) and pizza (26%). 

“Food is a common denominator in what gives us comfort during these stressful times, and this survey throws a spotlight on the changing American table in 2020, and how these types of foods are having a positive impact on our lives right now,” Womack adds.

Other Survey Findings:

TOP 15 MOST DEVOURED COMFORT FOODS OF 2020

Pizza                                                                                                   55%

Hamburgers                                                                                        48%

Ice cream                                                                                            46%

French fries                                                                                         45%

Mac & cheese                                                                                     39%

Potato Chips                                                                                       39%

Cookies                                                                                               38%

Chocolate                                                                                            37%

Cereal                                                                                                  34%

Fried Chicken                                                                                      34%

Spaghetti & Meatballs                                                                         32%

Mashed Potatoes                                                                                32%

Bread                                                                                                   31%

Hotdogs                                                                                               31%

Pancakes                                                                                            30%

TOP 5 REASONS AMERICANS REACH FOR COMFORT FOOD

Tastes good                                                                                        48%

Satisfying                                                                                            43%

Brings happiness                                                                                41%

Something to look forward to                                                              39%

Sense of comfort in uncertain times                                                   38%

TOP 5 COMPONENTS OF COMFORT FOOD

Great taste                                                                                          47%

Food used to enhance mood/feel better                                             36%

Indulgent                                                                                             34%

Simple preparation                                                                              31%

Sweet                                                                                                  31%

TOP 10 COMFORT FOOD SNACKS

Chocolate                                                                                            49%

Chips                                                                                                   46%

Cookies                                                                                               39%

French fries                                                                                         38%

Candy                                                                                                  37%

Mozzarella sticks                                                                                 31%

Popcorn                                                                                               31%

Chicken nuggets                                                                                 27%

Cereal                                                                                                 27%

Peanut butter                                                                                      26%

Conclusion

In times of uncertainty and stress, comfort food supplies a need for stability, equilibrium and – comfort. The phenomenon of comfort eating has become a permanent feature of human existence. For many, this type of comfort is a unique form of solace, enjoyment and control. Sadly, there are consequences. The rates of over-weight and obesity will become ever higher. The laws of human nature make this trend inevitable.

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