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05/07/2021

How the Pandemic Has Affected Eating Habits

Acosta report details changes in consumer dining, offers insight into post-pandemic eating trends
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
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How the Pandemic Has Affected Eating Habits
Acosta research finds that 92% of families will continue eating together at home at least as often, if not more often, post-pandemic.

Eating at home rather than dining out has been one of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior during the pandemic. This adjustment in dining doesn't appear to be shifting back soon. According to Acosta’s latest research, 92% of families plan to continue eating together at home at least as often as they do now, if not more often, after the pandemic ends.

Acosta’s new "COVID Dining Journey: Eating at Home and Away From Home" report explores the notable increase in consumers' preference for at-home dining and provides predictions on eating trends post-COVID.

Eating at home became the norm during COVID-19. Our research found 31% of families have eaten dinner at home every day since COVID, compared to only 18% pre-pandemic. These shifts have significantly impacted the restaurant industry, leading to $240 billion in lost revenue and 110,000 restaurant closures, according to the National Restaurant Association," said Colin Stewart, EVP, business intelligence at Acosta. "Post-COVID, shoppers believe eating together as a family will continue, and 20% even say that it will increase. Consumers supported restaurants during COVID via curbside pickup, drive-thru and delivery options, but now that things are opening back up, timing for the return to indoor restaurant dining still remains to be seen. Thirty percent of those surveyed are not sure or think it will be longer than six months before they dine inside again."

Acosta's research found that nearly two-thirds of shoppers report cooking at home more and eating far more meals at home all the time since COVID. Key findings include:

  • 47% of adults ate breakfast at home every day since COVID versus 37% pre-COVID.
  • 53% of kids ate breakfast at home every day since COVID versus 48% pre-COVID.
  • 40% of adults ate lunch at home every day since COVID versus 26% pre-COVID.
  • 48% of kids ate lunch at home every day since COVID versus 33% pre-COVID.
  • 31% of families ate dinner at home every day since COVID versus 18% pre-COVID.

The constant meal planning wasn’t easy, though. Fifty-six of respondents said that planning different meals every day was the biggest dining challenge during the pandemic.

When grocery shopping, consumers’ desire for healthy options led to significant shifts toward plant-based food and organics. Plant-based food sales alone were up 27% to $7 billion in 2020.

Meanwhile, research indicated that post-COVID, eating together as a family will stay the same for 72% of all households, and 20% of households expect to increase this behavior.

When asked how long it will be until they eat inside a restaurant again, diners' answers varied:

  • 30% of shoppers aren't sure or think it will be a while before they eat inside a restaurant again.
  • 26% of diners said they'll be comfortable within the next week.

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta is an integrated sales and marketing services provider that helps consumer packaged goods brands and retailers to win in the modern marketplace by delivering progressive solutions.

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