Description

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of What America Eats in 2021 including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Two thirds of US adults identify with putting “a lot of thought” into what they eat. While taste and freshness continue to lead as food and drink choice drivers, opportunity exists for brands to help shoppers meet financial and health goals – the two factors vying for the third most important choice driver. The stresses of COVID-19 resulted in consumers identifying food as a source of comfort from which they’ve sought both indulgence and convenience. It also resulted in a disruption of food and drink habits and opened up space in shopping carts and pantries, allowing opportunity for brands to edge in on market leaders.

Quickly understand

  • The shifting makeup of the typical American diet.
  • Top drivers impacting food and drink choice, including attributes sought by occasion.
  • Attitudes toward healthy eating.
  • The impact of COVID-19 on food and drink choice.

Covered in this report

Brands featured: Outstanding Foods, Carrington Farms, Pirq, Birch Benders, Brooklyn Born Chocolate, Duncan Hines and many more.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Beth Bloom, a leading analyst in the Food & Drink sector, her extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

COVID-19 brightened the spotlight on food’s role in consumers’ lives. 67% of US adults put a lot of thought into what they eat, and 26% have turned to food and drink for comfort more often due to the pandemic. It also disrupted habits and behaviors in a way that leaves consumers up for grabs for brands who can meet fundamental needs of good taste, quality, convenience, value, health, and enjoyment/experience.

Beth Bloom
Associate Director – Food & Drink

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Key issues covered in this Report
        • Definition
          • COVID-19: market context
          • Executive Summary

              • Top takeaways
                • Market overview
                  • Figure 1: Sales of food at home and away from home, November 2019-November 2020
                • Impact of COVID-19 on what America eats
                  • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on what america eats, February 2021
                • Opportunities and Challenges
                  • Re-emergence
                    • Close to one in five adults is always on the lookout for new foods/flavors
                      • Figure 3: Frequency of food behaviors – look for new foods/flavors to try, July 2020
                    • Ease of preparation and satiety have strongest draw
                      • Figure 4: Attributes sought, by occasions – net* – any occasion, November 2020
                    • Recovery
                      • Figure 5: COVID-19 related changes in food and drink behavior, July 2020
                      • Figure 6: Desired change in diet, November 2020
                      • Figure 7: Typical diet, December 2019 and November 2020
                  • The Market – Key Takeaways

                    • Spend on food at home remains elevated
                      • Continued high unemployment will require brands to mind frugality
                        • Brand must meet the needs of a home-based workforce
                          • Keep diversification in mind: one size does not fit all
                          • Market Factors

                            • Spend on food at home remains higher than the enthusiasm of home cooks
                              • Figure 8: Sales of food at home and away from home, November 2019-November 2020
                              • Figure 9: COVID-19 related changes in food and drink behavior – cook from scratch, July 2020
                              • Figure 10: Anticipated 2021 work situation, November 2020
                            • Unemployment down from 2020 peak, but remains elevated
                              • Figure 11: Unemployment and underemployment, January-December 2020
                              • Figure 12: Financial situation, November 2020
                            • Food price increases outpace 20-year average
                              • Figure 13: Changes in Consumer Food Price Indexes – food at home, 2018 through 2020
                              • Figure 14: Food/drink statements – economy, November 2020
                              • Figure 15: Changes in Consumer Food Price Indexes, by category, 2020
                              • Figure 16: Word clouds for top topics alongside discussion of “affordable dinner,” January-December 2020
                            • US population grows older and more diverse
                              • Figure 17: Share of population, by age, 2016-26
                              • Figure 18: Share of population, by race and Hispanic origin, 2016-26
                              • Figure 19: Frequency of food behaviors – eat religious compliant foods (eg halal, kosher), July 2020
                          • Market Opportunities

                            • Amp up focus on the experience of food
                              • Figure 20: Key factors driving consumer behavior around wellbeing, July 2020
                              • Figure 21: Mintel Trend Driver Experiences
                            • Turn classic comfort to novel comfort
                              • Figure 22: Top three food launches ranked by purchase intent, January-December 2020
                              • Figure 23: Top three drink launches ranked by purchase intent, January-December 2020
                            • Aim at value through more for less
                              • Figure 24: Top three food/drink launches featuring the “economy” claim ranked by the attribute “exciting,” January-December 2020
                              • Figure 25: Top three food/drink launches featuring the “economy” claim ranked by the attribute “premium,” January-December 2020
                            • Consumers are willing to pay more for keeping it simple
                              • Take the stress out of food choices
                                • Help consumers be bold at home
                                  • Answer the call for food ethics and localism
                                    • Figure 26: Frequency of food behaviors – choose ethical foods (eg organic, fair trade, free-range), December 2019 and July 2020
                                    • Figure 27: Frequency of food behaviors – try to buy locally grown food, December 2019 and July 2020
                                    • Figure 28: Attitudes toward healthy eating and sustainability, July 2020
                                • Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

                                  • Brands find convenience niche through packaging; other avenues exist
                                    • Fastest growing claims aim at environment, health, nutrition
                                      • Interest in protein must be met by a wider array of offerings
                                        • Specialized diets are niche, but their audience is wider
                                        • Competitive Strategies

                                          • Brands use convenient format to convey convenient health
                                            • Figure 29: Top three food launches ranked by the attribute “convenient,” January-December 2020
                                            • Figure 30: Top three drink launches ranked by the attribute “convenient,” January-December 2020
                                          • Brands refocus on contemporary notions of health, nutrition and environment
                                            • Figure 31: Food/drink launches, by fastest growing claims, January 2018-December 2020
                                          • Provide the protein for those who are cutting back on meat
                                            • Brands using specialized claims cast wider health net
                                              • Figure 32: Perception of food/drink launches with keto or paleo claim versus all food/drink launches, January-December 2020
                                          • The Consumer – Key Takeaways

                                            • Vegetables, plants are the real winners in the shift away from meat
                                              • Taste and freshness are non-negotiable, cost and health are differentiators
                                                • Sugar and processed foods are identified as enemies of healthy eating
                                                  • Vast majority of shoppers look for items that are easy to prepare and filling
                                                    • Food and drink habits aren’t set in stone, brands can edge in
                                                    • Typical American Diet

                                                      • Meat consumption declining
                                                        • Figure 33: Typical diet, December 2019 and November 2020
                                                      • Midwesterners most likely to hold on to their meat-eating ways
                                                        • Figure 34: Typical diet, by region, November 2020
                                                      • One in 10 18-34s is vegetarian, pointing to a growing need for plant-based
                                                        • Figure 35: Typical diet, by age, November 2020
                                                    • Food and Drink Choice Drivers

                                                      • Cost and health can’t replace good taste
                                                          • Figure 36: Food and drink choice drivers, November 2020
                                                        • Fun and pleasure are key drivers for young shoppers
                                                          • Figure 37: Food and drink choice drivers, by age, November 2020
                                                        • Close to half of adults choose quick-to-prepare food all/most of the time
                                                          • Figure 38: Frequency of food behaviors – choose easy (ie quick to prepare) food, July 2020
                                                      • Attributes Sought by Occasion

                                                        • Ease of preparation and satiety have strongest draw
                                                          • Figure 39: Attributes sought, by occasions – net* – any occasion, November 2020
                                                        • Breakfast and lunch call for similar attributes, dinner is a standout
                                                          • Figure 40: Attributes sought, by occasions – meals, November 2020
                                                        • Snacks get progressively more indulgent throughout the day
                                                          • Figure 41: Attributes sought, by occasions – snacks, November 2020
                                                        • Close the functional gap between snacks and meals
                                                          • Figure 42: Attributes sought, by occasion nets – meals versus snacks, November 2020
                                                      • Categories Consumed by Occasion

                                                        • Meat is still most commonly consumed category
                                                          • Figure 43: Food/drink categories consumed, by occasion – net* – any occasion, November 2020
                                                        • Grains are present at all meals; walk the health tightrope
                                                          • Figure 44: Food/drink categories consumed, by occasions – meals, November 2020
                                                        • Breakfast drinks may find their niche in vegetarians/vegans
                                                          • Figure 45: Food/drink categories consumed – vegetarian/vegan (net), by occasions – meals, November 2020
                                                        • Meat still present in flexitarian diets
                                                          • Figure 46: Food/drink categories consumed – flexitarian, by occasions – meals, November 2020
                                                        • Breakfast: Eggs struggle with portability
                                                          • Figure 47: Food/drink categories consumed – morning meal, by morning meal attributes of interest, November 2020
                                                        • Fruit is a popular snack choice; sugar creeps in as day goes on
                                                          • Figure 48: Food/drink categories consumed, by occasions – snacks, November 2020
                                                          • Figure 49: Top three fruit and fruit snack launches ranked by the attribute “exciting,” January-December 2020
                                                          • Figure 50: Perception of fruit and fruit snack launches versus all snack launches, January-December 2020
                                                      • Food and Drink Exploration

                                                        • Close to one in five adults is always on the lookout for new foods/flavors
                                                          • Figure 51: Frequency of food behaviors – look for new foods/flavors to try, July 2020
                                                        • Brands can think about a one-month new trial cycle
                                                        • Attitudes toward Healthy Eating

                                                          • Consumers need brand guidance to meet health goals . . .
                                                            • Figure 52: Food/drink statements – health, November 2020
                                                            • Figure 53: Attitudes toward healthy eating and sustainability, July 2020
                                                          • . . . especially those who are struggling financially
                                                            • Figure 54: Food/drink statements – health, by financial situation, November 2020
                                                          • Generational divide on health agrees on fruit and veg
                                                            • Sugar and processed foods are public enemies number 1 and 2
                                                              • Figure 55: Desired change in diet, November 2020
                                                            • COVID-19 reinforced already trending dietary aspirations
                                                              • Interest in basic nutritional elements grows amid pandemic
                                                                • Figure 56: Factors important in food choice, December 2019 and July 2020
                                                            • Impact of COVID-19 on Food and Drink Choices

                                                              • Disruptive times are opportunities for brands
                                                                • Figure 57: Impact of COVID-19 on food/drink choices, November 2020
                                                                • Figure 58: Coronavirus behaviors, April 2020-January 2021
                                                              • On-the-go convenience still relevant with expanded purpose
                                                                • Figure 59: Food/drink statements – COVID, November 2020
                                                                • Figure 60: Frequency of food behaviors – eat on-the-go, December 2019 and July 2020
                                                              • Brands can help consumers get back on track with goals . . .
                                                                • Figure 61: COVID-19 related changes in food and drink behavior, July 2020
                                                              • . . . but it has to taste good
                                                                • Figure 62: Frequency of food behaviors – eat healthily, December 2019 and July 2020
                                                                • Figure 63: Attitudes toward healthy eating and sustainability, December 2019 and July 2020
                                                              • Convenience will be a strong selling point
                                                                • Figure 64: Word clouds for top topics alongside discussion of “convenient dinner,” January-December 2020
                                                            • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                              • Data sources
                                                                • Consumer survey data
                                                                  • Consumer qualitative research
                                                                    • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                      • Abbreviations

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