More Americans Want Comfort Foods: Here’s How We Can Help 

People around the country are now staying home and social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, and many have stocked up with several weeks of food. According to a March 26 survey by IRI Worldwide, 70% of consumers are now staying home (compared to 43% the week before), 56% are eating at home more rather than at a restaurant (vs. 32% the week before) and 43% are limiting trips to the store by stocking up.  

Retail sales data from IRI Worldwide and Nielsen suggests comfort foods and treats were in many shopping baskets. Soups, breakfast foods, cookies, pretzels and potato chips all saw sales surge during the four-week period ending March 8. Sales of popcorn rose 48%, pretzels rose 47% and milk climbed 31%. In fact, 18% of people surveyed by IRI say they’re eating more treats now. 

Pork also ranks high on the list of comfort food options for many consumers. Our Insight to Action data found that among pork buyers, 43% rate pork chops, 37% rate pork roast and 27% rate ham as good comfort foods. According to our Insight to Action research, consumers said that delicious taste, filling and good comfort food were pork’s top attributes.  

So, what can retailers do to help consumers bring tasty comfort foods to the dinner table? 

  1. Showcase hearty recipes for the Instant Pot or Slow Cooker. Roasts, stews, carnitas and pulled pork are all easy to set in the Instant Pot or slow cooker in the morning for a comforting dinner in the evening. This is especially helpful for families balancing work-from-home life with home-schooling. Already, 85% of consumers own a slow cooker, while 15% own a multi-cooker. Retailers should feature cuts that work well slow or pressured cooked, like ribs, shoulder and tenderloin.  
  1. Don’t forget about breakfast. Most consumers are eating all their meals and snacks at home these days, and a comforting breakfast is a great way to start the day. Bacon is a comfort-food favorite and it doesn’t just have to be eaten on the side of eggs. It can be added to a breakfast sandwich, an egg and potatoes skillet, a breakfast quiche, as a topper for waffles, or a bacon breakfast pizza. Breakfast sausage could be incorporated into a delicious and hearty breakfast burrito or an egg scramble. Check back next week when we’ll share our latest economic outlook for bacon and breakfast. 
  1. Highlight recipes for comforting dinners that can become the next day’s lunch. A delicious ham dinner can make the next day’s (or more) tasty sandwiches. Leftover roast and vegetables can be transformed into a classic stew. One comfort food option can easily stretch across several meals with larger fresh cuts.  

It’s no surprise that in challenging times, consumers are more drawn to foods that are comforting — tasty, flavorful and filling. Fortunately, pork is both comforting and healthful, as eight fresh cuts meet USDA guidelines for “lean” meats.  

How are you helping shoppers prepare for more meals at home? Share your ideas, and don’t forget to download our report Dinner at Home in America. We’ve also compiled an at-home cooking asset library to help you share recipes and meal-planning ideas online and on social media.  

We know retailers are busier than usual these days as they work to keep store shelves stocked and remain on the frontlines of responding to this national crisis. Keep watching this newsletter for more ideas for how you can help consumers navigate this challenging time. We’re committed to helping you provide the best service to your customers.  

In the past few weeks and for the immediate future, people are shopping, cooking and eating much differently than they normally do. With record meat sales in the last few weeks, we recognize that many families likely have cuts of pork in their freezers and refrigerators that they’re not used to preparing. To help them be successful answering the question, “Okay, now I’ve got this – what do I do with it?”, the National Pork Board has amplified its social media and paid search efforts to provide consumers with preparation ideas, cooking advice, recipes and storage tips to help them be successful in providing meals for everyone in their household while stretching their food dollars as effectively as possible. 

If you’re not already, feel free to like and/or subscribe to our pages, and share our content – from either your personal or business accounts! 

Our YouTube channel has both Pork Board- and influencer-created content.  

We’re sharing great ideas on our Facebook page, and starting Friday, we’re focusing on how to be successful with your Easter ham in a world of smaller family gatherings. Our own Chef Neel Sahni has created some great videos and will be answering consumer questions! 

Instagram was made for food photos and ideas, and the @nationalporkboard account has some of the best! 

We’d always appreciate an RT over on our Twitter page, where we’ve been partnering with some influential Tweeters. 

Angie Krieger

Angie Krieger

Assistant Vice President, Channel Outreach

National Pork Board Cell: 319-594-4000