COVID Has Changed the Way We Eat

October 28, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

Demographics & Audiences | Europe & Middle East | Food & Restaurants | Industries | North America | UK | Youth & Gen X

Around half of consumers across the US, UK, France and Germany say that healthy eating is a top priority, according to survey results from McKinsey. The survey finds that the top ways by which consumers achieve healthy eating differs by market, but that reducing consumption of processed foods and sugar are among the top approaches.

Within the US, 44% of respondents said they had reduced their consumption of sugar over the past 12 months, while similar percentages claimed to have cut down on their intake of salt and processed foods. While consumers in the US are more likely than those in other markets to have cut down on gluten, they’re considerably less likely to have reduced their red meat consumption.

The analysts note that younger consumers are more likely than their older counterparts to be cutting down on various consumption habits, in particular red meat, dairy and gluten. This may be linked to higher reported food allergies and intolerances among younger age groups. For example, in the US about half claim such allergies.

The research indicates that the pandemic has had an impact on consumers’ eating habits. Within the US, about 4 in 10 (41%) claim to be eating more fresh produce since COVID-19 began, and more than one-third (36%) say they eat significantly more healthily. One-third (33%) care more about artificial ingredients now, and one-quarter eat more sustainable products.

On a related note, recent research indicates that sustainability impacts purchase likelihood more in the Food & Beverage than in any other sector.

Returning to the McKinsey survey results, further findings indicate that Americans appear more tied to animal products and meat than Europeans. For example, US respondents are somewhat less likely than those in the other markets surveyed to say they’re eating less animal products since COVID, with 22% reporting this. Moreover, about half (49%) have no meat restrictions, compared to 45% in the UK, 39% in France, and 38% in Germany.

Overall, half of consumers across countries say that the pandemic has changed the way they eat. Within the US, Millennials are the most likely to have done so, with roughly two-thirds reporting a change in their eating habits, compared to about 6 in 10 Gen Z and Gen X adults.

Notably, while consumers in France were the most likely to report various specific cutbacks in consumption (such as of processed foods, sugar, fat, and salt), it’s those in the US who are the most apt to say they’ve made changes overall, with almost 6 in 10 reporting this.

For more, check out the full survey results here.

About the Data: The results are based on an online survey of 8,192 consumers in the US, UK, Germany and France.

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