I recently attended a (virtual, of course) session by ABA's NextGenBaker program entitled "Leading in the Landscape of Today," which featured industry senior leaders speaking about the pandemic and how shopping habits have changed, and also not changed.
One of the quotes stood out to me—Luc Mongeau, president of Weston Foods, said that what's interesting in the crisis is that demand for baked goods has not come down.
"If anything, it has come up because people turn to baked goods for certain level of comfort. We’ve accelerated our rate of forecasting—inventory replenishment, etcetera—to ensure where the demand is shifting in the market. Foodservice industry has been greatly impacted but demand for baked goods had gone up."
In addition, Mario Somoza, president and CEO of Pan Pepin, said that he saw a local shift from one channel to another: restaurants and foodservice customers shutting down and moving to the retail side of the business.
"Kids are learning at home so there are no more school lunches—we had buns and rolls demands like it was summer, since more people were making sandwiches at home. We were able to shift resources from the restaurant side to meet increased demand on the retail side."
None of this is surprising to me, because Americans need comforting right now—and sometimes that comfort comes with a side of carbs.
In addition to eating bread off the shelf, Americans are also baking more. We recently had an interview with Simple Mills, in which their senior director of eCommerce, Todd Hassenfelt, said that their baking portfolio has experienced "incredible growth." Consumers are looking for better-for-you options, as well as family activities, and Simple Mills' Artisan Bread Mix, Banana Muffin & Bread Mix, and Pizza Dough Mix fit the bill.
Similarly, a recent survey of 2,000 Americans showed that two in three are reverting to childhood food favorites and eating more comfort food during the pandemic. That includes an uptick in such favorites as pizza (55 percent), hamburgers (48 percent), ice cream (46 percent), French fries (45 percent), mac and cheese (38 percent), spaghetti and meatballs (32 percent) and others.
The survey was conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with Farm Rich, and it looked at American eating habits during the pandemic. It showed that the average person is enjoying "comfort meals" at least five times a week, and snack at least six times a week this year.
And if you've gained a bit of weight like I have during this time, know that you're not alone: 85 percent of people have gained a few pounds while staying at home more, with the average being about six pounds per person.
Farm Rich senior marketing manager Ciera Womack summed it up best:
“Food is a common denominator in what gives us comfort during these stressful times, and [this] throws a spotlight on the changing American table in 2020, and how these types of foods are having a positive impact on our lives right now."