COVID-19 prompts healthier eating habits, while interest in ‘natural’ foods remains high

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Credit: BBC

More than four out of five consumers say the coronavirus pandemic has changed their food habits, driving them to cook, eat, shop and think about food differently, according to the annual Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information Council.

A total of 85% said they were doing something differently, with about 60% cooking at home more, the survey results said. The other changes are more varied and not quite as universal, with about a third saying they are snacking more and washing produce more.

Aside from more snacking, the pandemic has changed what people are eating, Ali Webster, IFIC’s director of research and nutrition communications, said at a virtual press conference announcing the survey results.

“A higher percentage of people said that they were eating healthier than they usually do as a result of the pandemic. And this was compared to a lower percentage of people who said that they were eating less healthy than usual, as related to COVID-19,” Webster said.

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When it comes to label claims, “natural” — which has no regulated definition — is the one consumers find the most important, both for items they buy at the grocery store and in foodservice. More than 40% find they are influenced by products labeled “natural” at the grocery store, while about 20% find it influential on a menu.

And the health halo of “natural” products helps them win over consumers.

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