Since the start of the pandemic, American consumers have indulged their sweet tooth. Household spending on confections, baked goods and baking supplies was 9 percent higher from February 24, the first notable day of increased purchasing of consumer packaged goods, through September 30 when compared to the same period in 2019. These findings are part of new data released by NCSolutions (NCS), the leading company for improving advertising effectiveness for the consumer packaged goods ecosystem.

The confections and baked goods and supplies category includes bakery desserts, baking mixes, chocolate and non-chocolate candy, cookies, frozen baked goods, ice cream, marshmallows, pie crusts and mixes, pie fillings, puddings and gelatins, snack cakes and sugar.

Though Americans joked about needing even more chocolate as COVID-19 upended routines, the data support the lighthearted commentary. NCS has defined distinct periods of COVID-19 buying based on consumer spending behavior. During the Extreme-Buying phase between March 11 and March 21, consumers spent 26 percent more specifically on chocolate candy, and over the entire pandemic period (ending September 30), household spending on this item continues to be 4 percent higher than 2019.

"Traditionally, spending on sweets during this time of year rises. Sweets such as chocolate, cakes and pies are a significant element of holiday celebrations, starting with Halloween and continuing through New Year's Day," said Linda Dupree, CEO, NCSolutions. "This annual trend, coupled with the pandemic-driven sustained interest in cooking and baking, indicates that consumer enthusiasm for the category will remain strong. Over Easter and Mother's Day this year, spending on sweets peaked higher than it did last year, which is further indication of what is to come this holiday season for sweets and confectionary brands."

Household spending on other sweet and dessert items have sustained elevated levels throughout the pandemic, especially products used for baking. Americans turned to baking their own cakes and cookies, and sales of baking mixes and sugar surged early in the pandemic. Sales of baking mixes are 38 percent higher than 2019, after spiking 159 percent during the Extreme-Buying stage. Likewise, sales of sugar are 26 percent higher than the same period last year, after they jumped 118 percent during Extreme Buying. Pie ingredients are also higher. Since the start of the pandemic, household spending on pie filling is up 35 percent and spending on pie crusts and mixes is 23 percent higher.

Prepared food items have also seen a rise in popularity. Americans purchased more frozen baked goods (up 25 percent over the pandemic period as compared to 2019), desserts (19 percent), ice cream (16 percent) and cookies (9 percent).

"Throughout the pandemic, we've noticed a tidal wave of nostalgia sweep over the nation, as consumers buy more comfort foods and seek the sweet treats they need for their pandemic sweet tooth," Dupree said. "Sweets—both homemade and store-bought—will continue to be part of the comfort food mix. Consumer insights based on buying behavior are the most reliable tool CPG advertisers have for understanding how to reach their loyal shoppers and the new brand explorers as American consumers shop and plan for the coming winter months."

The Home-Confined Buying stage, which started on March 22, continues. Through the end of September, sales of consumer packaged goods were 22 percent higher than the pre-COVID period (February 1 - February 23, 2020). Average daily sales are up 18 percent in September compared to the same period last year.