Home Cooking and Comfort Eating: How is this Driving Brand Switching?

As consumers have relaxed and shifted a bit of their attention away from COVID news, how to spend time at home and relax has become more top-of-mind.  Consumers are re-vamping their home habits, in order to establish their “new normal” routines.  Let’s look at two trends that we have uncovered via BrandSpark’s weekly Pulse surveys (a survey that tracks attitudes and behaviors around shopping among Canadian shoppers on a weekly basis).

Cooking from Scratch: Revisiting our Diets

Additional free time under quarantine has allowed many consumers to re-examine their diets and re-think old eating habits.  Roughly one in five shoppers in our survey stated that they have shifted to a healthier diet over the past month, marking a sizeable new segment of health-conscious consumers.  Within this segment, over half are now attributing their newly-healthy diets to having more time to cook and re-think their diets (doubling vs. early April).

This has been reflected in what messaging consumers want to hear from brands.  Over the past 90 days, consumer interest in receiving COVID-related messaging has dropped significantly while interest in recipe ideas and where food is sourced has risen sharply (see chart below).  This is likely a sign that we are reaching “COVID burnout” and that consumers are shifting their attention to establishing home routines, such as home cooking.

As we have noted before, a consequence of the COVID-19 crisis has been a high degree of brand switching and new product trial.  Additionally, among our “healthy home cooks” segment, we can expect increased consumer interest in product claims, as they put old eating habits under the microscope.  At this time, consumer loyalty for food products cannot be taken for granted.

Escaping the Everyday

Not all of our eating habits have become healthier.  For many, comfort food is a release from the stress of balancing work, children at home, and COVID-19 news.  As we have written previously, our surveys have shown that purchases of comfort food products and alcohol appear to be on the rise (see chart below).

The emotional release consumers get from comfort food has led to increased purchases in certain categories.  One shopper in our study, for example, detailed her struggles with COVID-19 and how a trip out of the house to buy chocolate and face masks allowed her a momentary escape from her daily struggles:

“I was laid off of a job I love since March, the weather was crappy & the bright colours in the top reminded me of summer. I felt I had enough of feared shopping & decided to be brave, stay a minute or 2 longer & treat myself to something. The rose face mask smelled LOVELY & made my skin look nice & the chocolate was YUMMY. just for me. No one else in the household. I ate it like a bandit”

Another respondent in our study detailed how her purchases of chocolate and clothing allowed her to escape the daily stress of working in a customer-facing role during COVID-19:

“It is for me. I work in retail and I have had enough of people shopping just or the sake of shopping (non-essential items). For two months I have worked through Covid-19. Time for me.”

Responding to Consumer Trends:

For brands, this is a time to be vigilant about shifting market share as a result of shifts in how consumers spend their time.  Not only will consumers be likely more skeptical of certain claims on food products, they will likely be open to purchasing products that they haven’t before.

In this time of shifting shopper habits, brands must ask themselves the following:

  1. What are we doing to address increased consumer attention to product claims?
  2. How is our marketing strategy capitalizing on increased brand switching – either to retain customers or steal share?

The answer, of course, depends on the category, the brand’s position within the category and many other factors, which we detail in our “Shopper Stubbornness” research.

Our database allows us to compare your brand against category benchmarks on consumer trust, likelihood to switch brands (stubbornness), as well as performance on the 8 underlying factors driving brand stubbornness.

Get in touch with us for a free consultation by e-mailing info@brandspark.com.