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Coronavirus is changing what we eat: Americans ‘craving comfort food’


Let’s just call this a judgment-free zone until further notice.

Americans are indulging in comfort food as the coronavirus pandemic keeps them cooped up, eating sugary cereal, junk food, frozen pizza and other maybe-not-so-healthy items to help get them through the pandemic.

The trend represents a stark reversal from the national gravitation toward more natural foods in recent years, which had benefited products viewed as healthier.

But a sudden explosion of stress, boredom and, in some cases, a lack of alternatives has changed people’s habits, at least temporarily. Waistlines beware.

While stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer whenever they can find it, Americans are snapping up familiar items like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, Goldfish crackers, baked goods and dairy products.

“People seem to be craving comfort food,” said Kai Bockmann, president of dairy product maker Saputo, which reported surging sales of string cheese.

Breakfast is back

Breakfast items, in particular, are enjoying a sudden resurgence.

“I think families are turning to things like cereal to instill a sense of what’s familiar, what’s normal, something they trust,” said Ricardo Fernandez, president of the U.S. cereal business at General Mills, where sales of cereal like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Trix and Lucky Charms are booming. “People who used to skip breakfast may come back to breakfast because their normal routine has been disrupted.”

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General Mills saw demand spike for cereal.

Dairy sales, which are closely tied to cereal, soared 60% in the week ended March 22, compared with a year earlier, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. That increase marks a sudden reversal for products like fluid milk, which had been declining in popularity for years.

Suddenly, the kitchen table is occupied with parents and kids eating alongside each other.

“It’s kind of like yesteryear, if you will,” said Michael Dykes, CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association, whose members include dairy processors, farm coops and retailers like Kroger and Safeway. “They’re all there with nothing to go to, so they’re eating meals as a family. They’re having breakfast together.”





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