Consumers pick up back to basics cooking skills and 'stress baking' during coronavirus quarantine

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

©GettyImages / Valeriy_G
©GettyImages / Valeriy_G

Related tags coronavirus COVID-19 Online grocery

Consumers are getting back to basics with their online grocery shopping as they use their extended periods of time at home to learn basic cooking skills and recipes such as how to bake a potato, make homemade bread, and how to cook rice, according to NYC-based tech firm Chicory.

Chicory​ has tracked a +122.85% year-over-year average spike in order rate for certain basic ingredients. Leading the growth was pasta increasing 698.99% in average online order volume compared to the year prior, followed by crushed tomatoes (+316.42%), evaporated milk (287.07%), tomato sauce (268.91%), and canned green chiles (+253.30%).

Chicory has also seen a strong uptick in a social phenomenon known as “stress baking”​ in which consumers are increasingly baking desserts and entrees that require more time and effort than typical stovetop dishes to distract from the coronavirus outbreak and help pass the time stuck at home.

"We’re seeing more baked dessert recipes like Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies, Italian Cream Cheese Cake, and Easy Pineapple Upside-Down Cake,"​ noted Chicory.


Strategies to connect with consumers

The surge of panic buying and stockpiling of groceries has left many physical and virtual shelves bare and as stress sets in for many, Chicory suggests that online retailers seek out different digital messaging strategies to connect with their consumer base.

"Don’t perpetuate fears about products being out of stock. Instead, inform consumers about your plans, as a manufacturer or retailer, to keep up with increased demand or ease anxieties about visiting stores. Better yet, manufacturers and retailers should partner to share local in-stock messaging via social media,"​ noted the tech firm. 

“Use this opportunity to maintain rapport with loyal consumers and build new consumer relationships in tough times. Messaging about how one product can be used in different ways, or helping shoppers to find new ideas and get creative will position your brand as a helper that they’ll remember fondly now and in future, less uncertain times.”​ 

Coronavirus grocery buying compared to holiday shopping

For the first fifteen days of March online grocery order volume has exceeded what online retailers see during both the back to school season and Fourth of July but has not reached the same levels of spending observed during Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping.


The difference, according to Chicory, is that in the past few weeks online retailers are seeing sustained ongoing hoarding behavior, as opposed to the typical one-week boost in buying around major holidays.

"While manufacturers, retailers and the overall supply chain typically have months in advance to prepare for holiday surges, they haven’t had adequate time to prepare for this and we’re seeing that the industry is just now catching up to demand,"​ said Chicory.

Chicory: The supply is there but consumers must avoid hoarding

“What will need to happen in order to take the strain off of the industry is for consumers to continue buying, but avoid hoarding. We’ll need to strike a balance with keeping supply and demand in decent harmony as players on all sides scale up their logistics to accommodate consumers nationwide shifting to cooking three meals at home for their whole families,”​ said Nick Minnick, Chicory's director of retailer development.

“The supply is there; we just need to shift it to new places, like away from restaurants and cafeterias and into grocery stores, and from niche products to staples. That may take some time, but to date, everyone involved is addressing the challenge admirably.”

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