In a video shared on the General Mills blog, Jeanine Bassett, VP consumer insights at General Mills explained:
"For dinner, at least in this initial phase, we don't see consumers turning into gourmet chefs... If you didn't cook before, the best you can do now is heat-and-eat, or do some minor meal assembly, so we've seen a 50% increase in categories that we consider convenient meals, everything from frozen pizza, to appetizers - that's now a meal, soups, wraps, frozen cooked chicken, and pasta."
For breakfast, she said, "We're seeing strong gains in cereal and toaster strudels, but this is an easy transition for consumers to make as the solutions for home are familiar and they are old friends."
For lunch, meanwhile, "We're seeing a run on easy eats like soup, deli meats and recipes for home-made bread."
That said, some consumers are trying to replicate the restaurant experience at home, she said, reflected in rising searches for things like 'oven fried chicken tenders' or 'copycat KFC original style chicken.'
Baking: 'Banana bread is having a moment'
While most consumers are not turning into Gordon Ramsay during the lockdown, home baking has become popular, and banana bread in particular is "having a moment," said Bassett.
"Through the end of March we saw items relating to baking solutions double, things like flour and eggs and sugar and frozen and refrigerated dough. There are a couple of things at work here. First off there is a lot of emotion going on. We see people walking away from their diets and their weight management programs because that's are so hard, and they can't think about that right now."
'We see people walking away from their diets'
She added: "They are tipping towards indulgence and comfort foods... Banana bread is having a moment. It is spiking on Google Trends and it's one of the most searched recipes on our own websites."
Baking is "also an antidote to boredom and a way to engage with your kids," she said. "On our social feeds we're seeing a lot of pictures of people decorating cookies and that sort of thing... We're seeing searches for cookies and cupcake [recipes] go off the rails as well."
'The need for variety will increase'
As for how food companies can support consumers during this time, she said: "In every crisis there is opportunity. The need for variety is going to increase, especially when you think about dinner time. Maybe consumers used to have a 10-meal portfolio and they would intersperse with let's go out and eat something... well now they need 20 ideas, so they will be looking for variety, more innovation in recipes and meals and solutions, but keeping it easy."
Another area of opportunity is self-serve options for kids for lunch - a meal that parents usually don't have to worry about if kids are eating meals prepared at school, she said.
According to Nielsen, in the eight weeks ending April 18, 2020: (all figures are year-on-year)
- Oatmilk +353.2%
- Fresh meat alternatives +264.5%
- Baking yeast +236.1%
- Baking powder +112.3%
- Pasta +75%
- Vitamins +49%
- Eggs +40.7%
- Meat +38%
- Frozen food +37%
- Orange juice +33.5%
- Dairy +26.5%
- Ice cream +24.8%
- Chocolate +5.7%
- Gum -21.5%