- Pizza, chocolate, ice cream, macaroni & cheese, and chips comprise the top five comfort foods, and when consumers are sick, soup and specifically chicken noodle soup are their top two choices, according to a recent Harris poll.
- Food companies that make go-to indulgences stand to benefit from consumers' cravings, especially if they target their marketing at the right emotions.
- In addition to manufacturing these comfort foods, the key for companies is to appeal to the moments consumers crave these comfort foods, such as when they're stressed, had a bad day, or celebrating.
This trend toward comfort foods contrasts with another trend sweeping the industry: healthy foods. Consumers may generally want to seek out healthier products, such as natural, organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free, but when they want comfort, the majority still turn to their favorite feel-good processed foods rather than healthier products. From 2013 to 2014, both healthy and indulgent foods saw increased sales, 5% and 2% respectively, according to Nielsen. Consumers still purchase indulgent foods, regardless of their overall health preferences.
Food and beverage marketing is shifting away from typical drivers of food choices, namely taste, price, and convenience, and more toward details about the product and experiences consumers can have with that product.
Canned soup is one segment that can be particularly happy with the results of this poll, as sales for brands like Campbell's Soup have declined. Campbell has combatted this effort by retooling its recipe for two soup products last year to appeal to consumers looking for healthier options. The company also launched a marketing campaign featuring "real" families and their experiences with Campbell's Soup products.
Also notable, nine in 10 consumers who responded to The Harris Poll said they prefer a home-cooked meal, in part because of the nostalgia it invokes. That's beneficial for companies who make these products, rather than having consumers eat out and spend money elsewhere.