2. The quarantine diet
Now that we're all sheltering in place, convenient childhood food favorites — like hot dogs, soup and macaroni and cheese — are trumping the healthy options that prevailed pre-coronavirus, managing editor Jennifer Kingson writes.
- Why it matters: A lot of food trends from the beginning of the year — the popularity of plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and products billed as organic or sustainable — have been tossed out the window.
Frozen foods (vegetables, pizzas, entrees) have seen historic sales increases, while canned goods and processed foods (soups, beans, tomato sauce) have been flying off supermarket shelves.
- Among people who can afford it, meal kits are enjoying a renaissance (reviving the fortunes of companies like Blue Apron).
- Restaurant chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are even introducing meal kits for home use.
- Denny's "Complete Breakfast Meal Kit" serves "four to six and contains bacon strips, eggs, milk, biscuits or English muffins, grapes, strawberries, assorted jelly packets, and Signature Diner Blend Coffee," per Progressive Grocer.
On the beverage side, consumers who made "Dry January" such a big thing this year have been drowned out by the bored and anxious, who are driving up booze sales, quaffing "quarantinis" and hoisting Corona beer during Zoom happy hours.
- The rise in drinking — beer, wine and cocktails included — stems from the same instincts as the ones driving us to childhood favorites like cookies, French fries and pancakes.
- Dairy — once villainized — is making a comeback. "It's a complete protein, and it's calming to the senses," Suzy Badaracco, CEO of the food industry consultancy Culinary Tides, tells Axios. "Whether it's ice cream or cheese or butter — it's comfort food."
What to watch: Faux meats — plant-based foods that are eaten primarily by non-vegetarians — have lost steam during the pandemic, and that trend will continue, Badaracco says.
- Even with a national meat shortage, she thinks people will seek out alternative sources of protein, like legumes, rather than imitation burgers.
- Badaracco says "sustainability sales," which include organic foods, will continue to decelerate "due to cost, not desire."