What do your pantry and freezer look like? Back in March when the country began to shelter in place and we were discovering empty shelves for the first time, it was clear hoarding was on. Beans, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, frozen pizza, chicken–gone. All of a sudden it felt like we were living in the 1970s Soviet Union.

Supply chains have been struggling so it’s no surprise that in May we’re still finding some empty shelves–or being told to limit our purchases of beef or tomato sauce or eggs. But it’s hard to tell what exactly is happening in the kitchens of America when you’re stuck in your own kitchen.

So, it was fascinating to read this article in Axios last week, called The Quarantine Diet. I thought I’d share with you some of their findings.

For one thing, all those food and nutrition trends we were anticipating for 2020? Things like the rise of plant-based meat substitutes, low-alcohol/no-alcohol drinks, and organic or sustainable products? See ya!

Instead, customers are purchasing historic amounts of frozen foods–from pizza to vegetables to entrées. Same with canned and processed foods. According to The New York Times, food sales at General Mills and Campbell Soup rose more than 60 percent in the four weeks that ended April 4. Consumer data company Nielsen also noted that Kraft Heinz, Kellogg, Flower Foods, and others had increases of 37 to 50 percent. This comes after a downward sales trend for soups and other canned foods as consumers began to favor fresh produce and other more nutritious options. Now people are stocking up–what the food industry calls “pantry-loading.”

Another option being revived for those who can afford it are meal kits, like those from Blue Apron and Home Chef. But it’s not just dedicated meal kit companies. Restaurants are getting into the act as well. Chains like Shake Shack and Chick-fil-A are introducing their own meal kits along with Denny’s, Panera, and Just Salad. Panera, like many neighborhood restaurants, is also adding groceries for sale. According to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. customers spent around $100 million on meal kits at retail stores in the month ending April 11. That’s nearly double from the same period the prior year.

And good-bye to the sober-curious. Meet the bored and the anxious (dare you look in the mirror?). They’re driving up liquor sales. Think “quarantinis” and Corona beers (too on point for me). Apparently, the rise in drinking corresponds to the same instincts driving up to childhood comfort food favorites. And dairy is making a comeback. Ice cream. Cheese. Butter. These complete proteins calm us and comfort us.

Axios pointed to several trends to watch. Faux meats are heading south, thanks to the pandemic, which Suzy Badaracco, Culinary Tides consultancy CEO Suzy Badaracco forecasts will continue. According to Badaracco, despite a national meat shortage, people will seek out alternative sources of protein, like legumes, rather than imitation burgers. Vegetarians will celebrate plants being plants even as meat eaters will return to animal proteins at an accelerated pace.

And, sadly, “sustainability sales,” which include organic foods, will continue to decelerate. Badaracco attributes this to cost, not desire.

What food and beverage trends have you noticed in your region? Do these trends sound familiar to you?

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