Top Selling Foods in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Top Selling Foods in the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 15, 2020
Annette Maggi
Retail Industry InsightsTrends

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic, health professionals are scratching their heads about the continued empty toilet paper shelves. Skyrocketing sales of disposal gloves and disinfectants make sense, of course, but paper products are another story.

Turning to food aisles of the store, retail RDs have an opportunity to tailor messaging to help consumers use food products that are suddenly surging in sales. Shoppers may not have cooking experience with a particular food or ingredient but are purchasing it as a non-perishable pantry staple. Many shelf-stable products have a strong nutrition profile, and retail RDs can increase consumer comfort in preparing meals with these foods as well as make them fall in love with them to maintain long term purchases of these items.

Nielsen data indicates seven food items are seeing the biggest increase in sales. Suggested story ideas for retail RD consideration in helping shoppers use these items are detailed below.

  • Yeast: Homemade bread baking is an art and a science, and to be successful at it, consumers need guidance. Consider a Bread Baking 101 segment that addresses the importance of water temperature, incorporation of whole wheat flour, and the shorter shelf life of homemade breads. Bread machines are also seeing sales increases and incorporation of this technology into story lines will increase consumer engagement.
  • Baking Powder: Look no further than Instagram to see the excessive amounts of baking going on in homes everywhere. Give suggestions on fruit-centric desserts, healthy ingredient substitutions, and portion control.
  • Beans (dry, black, garbanzo): They’re nutrition powerhouses, but the dry version creates prep challenges for the average home cook. In videos and live segments, demonstrate quick ways to cook dry beans, such as in Instapots and crock pots. Encourage use in multiple meal types – garbanzo beans baked for a crunchy snack, black beans to replace flour in brownies, or lentils as a plant-forward option in soups and chili.
  • Rice and Pasta: Both are perfect options for batch cooking. Encourage shoppers to cook large batches over the weekend and then provide suggestions on how to use in several meals during the week: rice for lunch bowls that are customizable by each family members or pasta in cold seafood salads.
  • Canned seafood: Is it possible that tuna noodle casserole is making a comeback with consumer interest in comfort foods? Tout the many benefits of canned seafood options, including their high protein and omega-3 content and overall nutrient density. Suggest kid-friendly options as well as use of these products for quick and easy meals.
  • Meat (canned, fresh, processed): The surge in sales here may be related to heightened prep of comfort foods and shelf-stability as well as familiarity. Focus messaging on how to extend meat to feed the increased number of family members at home for every meal as well as cuts that align with recommendations for managing various health conditions.

By leaning in and meeting consumers where they’re at in the midst of the pandemic, you can increase their loyalty to your stores as well as your nutrition programs and services in the future.

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