- Despite the economic hardship brought on by the pandemic, consumers are expected to spend slightly more on food and drinks this Super Bowl Sunday, with an average spend of $41.50, up from $40 in 2020, according to new data from IRI. About half of consumers plan to watch the game at home alone or with their immediate household members.
- Frito-Lay's most recent U.S. Snack Index — a poll of consumer snacking habits — projects a 21% increase in Super Bowl snacking compared to 2020.
- But the pandemic could also shape consumer choices for Super Bowl snacks and beverages, with NielsenIQ suggesting manufacturers should market single-serve, disposable products, as well as healthier options aimed at combating the "COVID-15" — the weight gained during the past year's sheltering at home.
With half of viewers planning to watch the Super Bowl at home this year, according to the IRI survey, and 43% expecting to buy the same types of snacks and beverages they already have at home, eating behavior shaped during the pandemic will most likely transfer to game watch gatherings.
A few snack and beverage categories in particular are likely to stand out. Last year, sales of salty snacks totaled $630 million for the week of Super Bowl, up 6.6% from 2019, according to NielsenIQ. The data firm says many consumers may want to opt for single-serve package sizes for 2021's event, as they try to avoid sharing from the same bowl. Sales of variety snack packs rose 13.5% for the week ending Feb. 8, 2020, a trend that is likely to repeat in 2021, according to NielsenIQ.
Indeed, consumers for this year's Super Bowl celebration will be in the mood for experimenting with their food options: 52% of consumers said they want to try something new and value variety, according to Frito-Lay’s Snack Index poll.
Mike Del Pozzo, chief customer officer at PepsiCo's Frito-Lay North America division, said the company plans to produce 70 million pounds of snacks this week, an increase of 2% from the same period a year earlier. He said big bag sizes and multipacks are popular with consumers seeking variety. Unflavored chips like Tostitos and dips "are doing exceptionally well" among shoppers doing more meal prep at home. The company is predicting 21% more snacking occasions with an uptick in smaller gatherings around the Super Bowl.
"You want to make sure that as people change their habit and behavior that you got the right products in the right place," Del Pozzo said.
Better-for-you products, which saw huge growth last year, are even more appealing to consumers who are dealing with weight gain and health concerns. Avocados, a popular option for Super Bowl guacamole, saw a more than 34% sales increase during the week ending Feb. 8, 2020, while vegetable-based snacks grew 10.5%, according to NielsenIQ.
When it comes to alcohol, consumers will likely choose lighter alternatives. Beer sales flattened during the week of Super Bowl in 2020, according to NielsenIQ. Instead, game watchers gravitated to lower-calorie hard seltzers and pre-mixed cocktails. Sales of ready-to-drink products rose 39.1% to $489 million last year.
While some purchases may change this year, the centerpiece of Super Bowl Sunday — the chicken wing — is not going anywhere. The National Chicken Council estimates 1.42 billion chicken wings will be eaten on game day, up 2% from 2020. In fact, chicken wings have been so popular, there is a national wing shortage just days ahead of the Super Bowl, according to The Washington Post. It has foodservice operators scrambling for supply, and consumers slated to spend more for their big game feast.
Christopher Doering contributed to this report.