Temporarily shifted toward the back row of today’s headlines, obesity has never really gone away as a human health issue: the CDC, which calls obesity a "common, serious, and costly disease," estimates the prevalence of adult obesity in the United States at over 42%, with higher rates of incidence occurring among non-Hispanic Blacks (49%) and Hispanics (44%). Certainly, COVID-19 hasn't helped our collectively bulging waistlines, and many sources credit the stress and anxiety of our current epoch as driving heightened consumption of iconic comfort foods, many of which feature increased levels of sugar, salt, fat, and preservatives. 

While changes in eating habits are among the culprits behind the Quarantine 15, consumers haven't given up completely on how they manage their health and wellness by regulating their eating behavior. Interviewed on the topic in a recent Supermarket Perimeter article (and citing findings from our Health + Wellness 2019: From Moderation to Mindfulness report), Hartman Group Senior Vice President Shelley Balanko offered specific insights. The article summarized Shelley’s comments this way:

Consumers manage their health and wellness through eating habits in three main approaches …:

  • Regulate and rationalize – this is where a lot of health and wellness perimeter food eating comes in. In this approach, consumers focus on healthy eating and following specific diets.
  • Intuit and interpret – still has quite a bit of fresh, perimeter food but there’s also more processed food in this mindset. In this approach, consumers choose what to eat based on how it makes them feel.
  • Retreat and regroup – this is the stage in which consumers decide to take a break from health and wellness eating, and avoid the typical rules they set around eating and snacking habits.
“‘Not considering COVID, consumers typically kind of toggle between those three approaches all the time,’” Balanko said. “‘Early in COVID, we saw a lot of retreat and regroup and now we’re starting to see consumers go back to regulate and rationalize. They’re going to be doubling down on healthy eating now because the pandemic has shown a spotlight on the tenuous nature of our own personal health, as well as public health.’

“Balanko added that consumers are going back to their commonsense and typical food philosophies, which for the last decade have been prioritizing fresh, real, less-processed perimeter foods, whether it be snacks or meal components. She predicted that in the long term, consumers are really going to be searching out snack foods that have higher nutrient density, a trend that was in motion prior to the pandemic but has been accelerated due to COVID-19."

Shelley will be presenting on related topics in our upcoming webinar: Pandemic Disruption: The Culture of Stress and Anxiety in America. You can register here

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