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What Consumers Want to Eat Now

Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
What Consumers Want to Eat Now
During quarantine, orders of meal kits rose 55% compared to the year before as diners put their own personal touch on the ingredients delivered, according to Grubhub.

Food retailers trying to optimize assortments in the second half of what has already been an extremely challenging year should be focused on spicy chicken sandwiches, cold brew coffee products and lobster roll meal kits.

That's according to a new report from Grubhub called "State of the Plate," which looked at food delivery trends during the first half of the year, in which consumers facing a pandemic pantry loaded, ordered takeout, and quarantined. The report also predicts which food trends might dominate retail during the second half of the year.

According to Grubhub, the spicy chicken sandwich saw a nearly 300% rise in popularity this year, with other top foods spanning a range of categories and plenty of newcomers:

  • spicy chicken sandwich: 299% more popular
  • plant-based burger: 291% more popular
  • vanilla shake: 273% more popular
  • iced latte: 261% more popular
  • chili: 228% more popular
  • cinnamon roll: 205% more popular
  • chimichanga: 195% more popular
  • beef burrito: 181% more popular
  • potato taco: 169% more popular
  • taro milk tea: 168% more popular

During quarantine, orders of meal kits rose 55% compared to the year before as diners put their own personal touch on the ingredients delivered, according to Grubhub.

Most Popular Meal Kit Orders

  • D.I.Y. burger
  • D.I.Y. lobster roll kit
  • D.I.Y. salad
  • D.I.Y. pizza
  • D.I.Y. gyro kit 

Similar to Grubhub's 2019 Year in Food Report, diners are continuing to eat vegan and vegetarian dishes. So far this year, vegan orders have risen by 23%, plant-based burgers specifically increasing by 90% and general plant-based orders by a whopping 135%.

  • black bean burger: 233% more popular
  • grilled portobello mushroom burger: 179% more popular
  • Impossible burger: 167% more popular
  • quinoa-based burger: 161% more popular
  • eggplant burger: 147% more popular


Breakfast: While bacon, egg and cheese came in at No. 1 in 2019, Grubhub says it is yet to see the breakfast staple among 2020's top foods. Instead:

acai bowl: 359% more popular
chorizo burrito: 270% more popular
potato pancakes: 259% more popular
shrimp and grits: 179% more popular
vegetable wrap: 112% more popular

Lunch: Salads and sandwiches led the charge, while avocado toast made a bit of a comeback. 

Thai chicken salad: 399% more popular
tuna salad sandwich: 262% more popular
chicken avocado melt: 188% more popular
kale caesar salad: 165% more popular
avocado toast: 164% more popular

Dinner: From Italian to Indian, diners are getting in a mix of cuisines for dinner.   

rigatoni bolognese: 292% more popular
lamb vindaloo: 283% more popular
vegetable korma: 267% more popular
moo shu pork: 266% more popular
salmon avocado roll: 244% more popular

Top late-night orders: Carbs came out on top, but 2020 brings in the appearance of a sweet treat.  

cheesy breadsticks: 412% more popular
strawberry cheesecake: 247% more popular
cheese sliders: 220% more popular
jalapeno poppers: 216% more popular
pizza puffs: 182% more popular

Grubhub took a look at the top foods on its platform for the specified mealtimes/food types below from Jan. 1-June 20, 2020, as compared to the same timeframe in 2019 to find the top items rising in popularity.

As far as what retailers can expect to see in the latter half of 2020, summer is currently seeing demand for lighter fare, but expect the fall to heat up with a little spice.

Forecasts: Summer (in ranking order)

vegetable biryani
spinach and artichoke wonton
Mexican shrimp cocktail
black bean and quinoa bowl
balsamic chicken salad

Forecasts: Fall (in ranking order)

miso tofu bowl
quinoa taco salad
mushroom burger
cajun wing
buffalo chicken empanada


On March 18, the first shelter-in-place order was initiated in San Francisco and the rest of the country followed suit shortly after. As Americans stayed home, they continued to order food using features like contact-free delivery to safely enjoy their favorite meals from local restaurants.

Over the months, Grubhub observed diners turn to comfort foods, order alcoholic beverages, and D.I.Y. orders. Under quarantine one thing was clear: Morning coffee routines changed as orders of cold brew rose by 232%

Most popular foods nationwide: It's all about the comfort foods and shareable plates as people order in.

  • spicy chicken sandwich: 353% more popular
  • red velvet cupcake: 196% more popular
  • plant-based burger: 166% more popular
  • cajun shrimp chicken pasta: 164% more popular
  • cheeseburger sliders: 158% more popular

Most popular items searched: While restaurants and bars were closed, diners were searching for a way to bring home the full dining experience.

  • wine
  • cake
  • boba tea
  • beer
  • donuts

Top alcohol orders (in ranking order): As delivery rose in popularity, so did alcoholic beverages while diners stayed home.

  • pinot grigio
  • hot sake
  • rosé
  • light beer
  • IPA
  • merlot
  • frozen strawberry margarita
  • chardonnay
  • cabernet
  • pina colada

Methodology: Grubhub took a look at order trends on its platform from Jan.1-June 20, 2020, as compared to the same timeframe in 2019 to find the top items rising in popularity so far.

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