Because Americans have been spending most of their time at home since the start of the pandemic, surveys show that food preparation has become a significant preoccupation. While some are ordering cooked food for delivery, many have developed a passion for cooking and baking.
A 2020 Hunter report shows that 54 percent of Americans are cooking more, and 46 percent are baking more. These consumers are ordering ingredients from online stores, with 44 percent discovering new products and 28 percent rediscovering products they have not used for a long time.
Eating Healthy With Indulgence
Health is at the forefront as people realize that what they eat affects the status of their immune system. Hence, the Hunter report shows that 39 percent of American consumers are choosing food with healthy ingredients. Similarly, a report from the Hartman Group shows that Americans choose immunity-boosting food and drinks a third of the time. A study by InsightsNow shows that among people who are health enthusiasts, almost 67 percent upped their intake of vitamins and supplements, 34 percent increased their consumption of vegetables and fruits, and nine percent used more spices during the pandemic.
Data from Nielsen shows that sales of plant-based meat alternatives grew by 265 percent from February 18 to April 18, 2020. This was six times more than the traditional growth of regular meat sales in the same period. Year-on-year comparisons by The Shelby Report and IRI show a 50 to 60 percent increase in April to June sales, a 40 to 50 percent increase in July to August sales, and a 30 to 40 percent increase in September to October sales.
Eating healthy does not mean depriving the taste buds, though. Food is still a source of comfort, and according to the Hunter report, 40 percent of Americans choose comfort food and indulgent food. Some are indulging by using healthy gourmet ingredients in their dishes. In lieu of traveling to exotic destinations for adventure, some are experimenting with healthy exotic dishes at home.
Mushrooms, for instance, are a delicious and healthy gourmet addition to many dishes. Even alone, various types of mushrooms sauteed quickly in olive oil with fresh garlic and just a sprinkle of salt and pepper make a perfect side dish and a sauce for pasta. Home cooks can search for online sellers that can deliver directly from a mushroom farm.
Sales of Specialty Food
According to the Specialty Food Association, there was a 13 percent increase in the sales of the specialty food market in 2020 compared to 2018. Total sales in 2020 reached $170.4 billion. On the retail level, there was a 19.4 percent increase in 2020, with almost all online groceries experiencing a spike in growth. The fastest-growing category was the plant-based specialty food and beverage market, which increased by 42 percent. This includes plant-based alternatives to meat. Other categories that also grew fast were frozen vegetables and fruits; beans, rice, and other grains; shelf-stable sauces for pizza and pasta; creamers and creams; and seasonings.
The 2021 Specialty Food Live! virtual marketplace of the Specialty Food Association offered home cooks many new healthy gourmet options to add to their repertoire of cooking ingredients. The aim is to add more fun and exciting flavors to meals prepared at home.
Healthy sugar alternatives and food sweetened with such were prominent. Among these were food naturally sweetened with peaches, dates, and even carrots. These and other sugar substitutes like coconut sugar, monk fruit, and keto-friendly sugars are seen to become more available and even more popular in 2022.
The virtual event also featured other types of food that are beneficial to health. Examples are prebiotic snacks and fermented honey that improve digestion, clarified butter with herbs that induce restful sleep and improve heart health, and the Middle Eastern sesame seed confectionary called Halva that is high in iron. Halva was available in several flavors like triple chocolate and toasted coconut. It was also available as a spread.
Home Cooking Is the Future
A member of the Specialty Food Association’s Trendspotter Panel agreed that people are mostly preparing food and eating at home in 2021. The Hunter report states that more than 50 percent of Americans intend to continue cooking and baking from home even after the pandemic to try more recipes, save on costs, and eat healthier. A 2020 Acosta report confirms this, with 47 percent of Americans planning to stop or lessen eating out for breakfast, 33 percent planning to stop or lessen eating out for lunch, and 29 percent planning to stop or lessen eating out for dinner after the pandemic. This trend bodes well for online selling of healthy specialty food and gourmet ingredients. The market is there and will continue to expand.