- Consumer attitudes toward comfort food continue to change as perceptions become more about purpose than emotion and the category as a whole becomes increasingly popular, according to analysis of Pinterest user data and a national survey commissioned by Foster Farms.
- Consumers save about 54,000 comfort food pins each day, a 140% increase from the year before, but comfort food searches increasingly include "veggies," with a 336% increase as compared to dips in searches for traditional comfort foods like lasagna (down 69%), macaroni (down 55%) and stroganoff (down 50%).
- The new definition of comfort food centers around healthier recipes, less processed and more fresh foods, ingredient quality, simplicity in cooking and buying local ingredients, compared to five years ago.
Consumers tend to care less about calories than they once did, which has led to the downfall of many "diet" food and beverage categories. Comfort foods were one high-calorie escape that many consumers allowed themselves to partake in. According to the survey, the leading reason people don't seek out "traditional" comfort foods is that they perceive the foods as unhealthy.
With the health-conscious movement in full effect, even comfort foods are seeing better-for-you upgrades, such as using vegetable replacements for ingredients consumers deem to be unhealthy. Those might include using lettuce instead of bread, zucchini for pasta, mushrooms for pizza dough and shredded cauliflower for rice, according to Pinterest data.
However, the data also showed that consumers still tend to use similar language when describing comfort foods, such as "loaded," "smothered" and "gooey." Manufacturers can adopt similar language as the past when marketing the products they position as comfort foods rather than focusing only on better-for-you ingredient changes. The ones that can strike that balance between health and indulgence may have an edge in the realm of comfort foods.