- The growth rate of the cookie market hit 6.6% for the 52-weeks ending Sept. 16, according to IRI data reported by Food Business News. Indulgent cookies have driven the majority of that jump since March. Comparatively, the cookie market grew 3.7% in 2019, reaching $9.1 billion in sales.
- Chocolate sales have also spiked 5.5% between March and September, according to data from the National Confectioners Association conducted by 210 Analytics. Non-chocolate confection sales grew by 1.6%.
- Catering to cravings has become big business since this spring. The International Food Information Council noted snacking has become more prevalent. Companies have taken advantage of this shift by pushing products that align with consumer demand for indulgence, resulting in reported sales surges for key categories of sweet treats, including cookies and chocolate.
More than four out of five consumers said the pandemic pushed them to cook, consume, buy and think about food differently, according to the International Food Information Council. Many have approached this diet revamp by increasing their number of snacking occasions — especially when they eat indulgent foods.
Snacking companies have reported "unprecedented demand" for snack offerings, saying consumers are seeking trusted, familiar brands that provide indulgence. Mondelez International data from April showed the number of bakery products, like cookies, sold grew substantially. According to the company's call with investors following its latest quarterly results earlier this week, sales in the segment that includes cookies grew 8% in the quarter.
Similarly, according to Mondelez's April report, a quarter of people indulged in chocolate. The company saw 5% sales growth in chocolate during its most recent quarter, the earnings report found.
It’s not just sales data supporting reports of increased consumption. A survey conducted by UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas found 7 in 10 people with obesity reported their weight-control plans are harder to achieve as they have dealt with pandemic-driven stress. Weight gain may be inevitable, with 61% of people reporting stress-eating — with a particular focus on shelf-stable foods.
With consumers facing uncertainty about the end of the pandemic, shelf-stable foods are likely to remain in high demand. Although some packaged foods can be less healthful choices, they are often associated with sedentary activities like binge-watching television — the frequency of which more than doubled from 14% pre-lockdown to 32% during lockdown, a study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found.
Not all junk food and candy was indulged in equally, though. Nielsen data analyzed by Food Dive showed the four categories that saw the biggest decreases in sales since March were mints, gum, dessert bars and cupcakes as more people made baked goods themselves. Data from the National Confectioners Association supports this, saying gum and mint sales have been “challenged” as the pandemic uprooted many work, school and social routines.
While this trend is likely to stay in place for a while, eventually the pandemic will end and manufacturers will be faced with another shift in consumer behavior. To keep up, they can look at trends like e-commerce and snacking that were growing at a strong clip prior to the pandemic and focus their energies on developing products to dovetail with these rising trends.
Megan Poinski contributed to this story.