Understanding COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating Behaviors and Occasions
The Hartman Group’s COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating report picks up where an earlier report left off and highlights how eating and drinking behavior continues to be affected by the pandemic by diving into the who, what, when, where, why, and how behind eating occasions.
COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating picks up where our earlier report left off, examining changes in eating occasions and related behavior occurring between the start of the pandemic and summer 2020. COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating leverages comparisons between spring 2020 and summer 2020 waves of data from The Hartman Group’s proprietary Eating Occasions Compass, a powerful database and analytics tool. Compass measures food consumption and eating occasions using survey methods specifically designed to reveal market opportunities. COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating provides key insights around occasion contexts, behaviors, and needs, and turns a spotlight on dayparts most impacted by COVID-19 and occasions sourced from food service.
Topics covered in the report include:
• Key Insights about eating away-from-home occasions including use of restaurants
• Dayparts impacted by COVID-19: Shifts in lunch, dinner and snacking occasions and behaviors
• “Cooking fatigue” and use of restaurants in relation to dinner preparation
• Spotlight on Gen Z – socializing and eating out
• Top Takeaways
Cultural Context: The Continued and Ongoing Effects of COVID-19 on Eating Occasions
As background, Americans’ eating behaviors saw unprecedented disruption in spring 2020: As we first reported in our earlier COVID-19’s Impact on Eating report, the basic rhythms of meals and snacks were virtually unaffected across dayparts (i.e., Americans were participating in the same eating occasions as they were prior to the pandemic). However, COVID-19 had largely disrupted other aspects of eating, including the occasion context, sourcing, and preparation. In spring 2020:
• Americans were far less likely to eat at restaurants but also far less likely to eat anywhere else outside of the home, resulting in away-from-home eating being cut in half. The increase in at-home occasions was most drastic during lunch and afternoon snacking occasions.
• Americans were more likely to be purchasing foods and beverages farther away from consumption, and stock-up trips contributed more to everyday eating.
• Americans were choosing to cook. A reduced reliance on restaurants did not lead to an increased reliance on ready-to-eat options but instead led to more cooking. More involved preparation was taking place at dinner, while lunches involved more moderate levels.
• Lunch was impacted heavily by COVID-19. When people ate at home with family, their lunches took on the characteristics of dinner: A higher-stakes meal with a more complex set of needs around fresh and real foods, with more cooking involvement and a greater willingness to spend.
• While early-morning snacks were more likely to be consumed with others, snacks later in the day persisted as the last bastion of "me time.” Many households were more likely to have others present at home throughout the day, but adults were still opting to consume afternoon snacks alone.
COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating finds that eating away from home has increased, but it is not back to pre-pandemic levels and yet, use of restaurant food has resumed its routine presence in American eating.
Among eating occasions, lunch has lost many of the dinner-like qualities that appeared in spring 2020 and snack occasions are helping friends connect outside of the home.
Further key insights are available in the report.
Download the earlier report COVID-19’s Impact on Eating