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NPD Group Finds COVID-19 has Changed American Eating Patterns

The NPD Group, a US market research company, annually collects data to track US consumer’s eating patterns. This is part of a 35-year report, “Eating Patterns in America”, tracking how US consumers eat away and at home. The report for this year shows how in mid-March, US eating patterns were disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With mandated shelter-at-home and restaurant dine-in restrictions across most of the country during the pandemic, we have had few options other than to prepare most of our meals at home,” said David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of “Eating Patterns in America.” “Working from home, schooling at home, and preparing more meals means more of our mealtimes are a departure from the norm, with most consumers describing their meals as atypical.”

Before the pandemic, 80% of meals were made at home, while 20% were sourced from restaurants and food service establishments. NPD found that during the pandemic, as much as 87% of meals are now consumed in the home. The amount of online and digital orders for groceries and restaurant orders nearly doubled pre- and during the pandemic, from 28% in May 2019 and 40% in May 2020. Comfort food as a mechanism of coping with stress has also increased during the pandemic. In-person visits to full-service restaurants declined nearly 80% during the height of the pandemic as a result of governmental mandates.

“To sum it up, I couldn’t have imagined when we released last year’s Eating Patterns in America that this year’s report would be telling the story it is, America’s eating patterns abruptly interrupted,” says Portalatin.  “What a year it will be moving forward as we evolve our perspective and the effects of a global pandemic that has caused such tumultuous change. It is my profound hope that next year when we’re compiling the 36th annual Eating Patterns in America, we’re telling the story of recovery.”