ICA has identified five clear changes in Swedish consumers' diets during the corona crisis. ICA is the country's leading grocery retailer. They used sales statistics and page visit statistics. These are from Sweden's most visited recipe site, ica.se.
Richard Tellström analyzed the figures. Richard is a food culture and consumption habits lecturer and researcher. He explains the changing eating habits from a cultural and historical perspective: "Throughout all of history's crises, consumption changed."
"But this is the first time we have such comprehensive statistics during a pandemic. Lasting changes probably won't be seen for several years. However, immediate changes are already perceptible. These are perhaps short-lived too."
These are the five changes in Swedes' eating habits during the first three months of the corona crisis.
- We baked our way through the crisis
Baking essentials sales skyrocketed. These include yeast, flour, and eggs. Yeast sales, for example, rose by 143%. People also searched for a lot more bread recipes on the site. Tellström says, "Bread is part of Swedes primal instinct. Baking bread while surrounded by uncertainty is comforting."
- Back to earlier times - more traditional dishes
Recipes for some dishes rose to ica.se's top 20 most-searched recipes. These include beef stroganoff, salmon with lemon, and potato and leek soup. There were also more hits on all kinds of pancake recipes than in other years. And 100% more people searched for recipes that had potatoes as its main ingredient. Tellström suggests, "The dishes that gained the most popularity are older recipes. People were sometimes disdainful of these, calling them 'grandma's recipes'. They now offer a welcome, trustworthy feeling."
- We're cooking at home more
The number of recipe searches on ica.se rose by 54%. A traditional indicator of how much people cook at home is how many onions they buy. Compared to the same period in 2019, onion sales increased by 14%. Stores also sold more products like cheese, meat, pizza dough, and ready-made sauces too. Tellström explains, "Home-cooking has increased tremendously. We haven't seen these numbers since the 50s and 60s. That's before women started working out of the house. Since then, we've only seen this happen in the summer holidays. But now, in the spring of 2020, also during work weeks."
- Stockpiling at the start of the crisis
When the crisis began, the sale of some products went through the roof. These were things like long-life and frozen products, and toilet and kitchen paper. This panic buying later subsided. Tellström says, "Coronavirus anxiety caused many consumers to start hoarding spontaneously. It was unfamiliar territory. How would people - who've not experienced food shortages in 80 years - know what to store? And where to expect shortages? Because, of course, you have to react in time. Otherwise, you're left empty-handed."
- Fewer parties, more special moments on weekdays
More people consulted recipes with long preparation times and those reserved for holidays. People ate bigger breakfasts on 'regular' days. Fruit juice sales increased too. Tellström suggests, "More unusual recipes became popular. Cooking became something to do while sitting at home, bored. Everyone shared these meals. So, the whole family probably encouraged the cooks."
All this data is based on ICA's sales statistics and the ica.se's visitor statistics. These are for the time between March and May 2020. They were compared to figures from the same 2019 period.