U.S. Consumers Increasingly Turn to Food as Medicine During Pandemic

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The concept of food as medicine has been around for ages, but it has gained increasing importance during the pandemic as U.S. consumers put their health and well-being front and center, according to The NPD Group.

“Food can be like fashion fads, in one day and out the other, and certainly during the pandemic health is top-of-mind with the majority of us as are the foods that help improve our health,” says Darren Seifer, NPD’s food and beverage industry analyst.

U.S. Consumers Increasingly Turn to Food as Medicine During Pandemic to Build Immunity, Reduce Inflammation, Improve Digestion, and Manage Stress

The concept of food as medicine has been around for ages, but it has gained increasing importance during the pandemic as U.S. consumers put their health and well-being front and center, reports The NPD Group. Consumers have been trying foods, ingredients, and substances that help them build immunity, prevent inflammation, aid their digestive health, and relieve stress and anxiety, according to NPD’s Health Aspirations and Behavioral Tracking Service, which continually tracks consumption habits linked to wellness goals and identifies long-term, mainstream trends.

Boosting immunity and reducing inflammation are top health concerns consumers look to achieve or treat with food and food substances during the pandemic. The importance of these two conditions in battling COVID-19 is widely reported across media channels and in social media discussions. For building immunity, among the top growing foods and substances consumers are trying during the pandemic are elderberry and moringa, both of which are already considered the most used medicinal plants in the world. Elderberry, which from spring 2019 through fall of 2020 has increased by 88% in usage, is also considered anti-viral and moringa is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and helps with joint and heart health. In addition to moringa, top growing foods consumers are trying to prevent or reduce inflammation are turmeric and manuka honey. Gut health, which tends to be a perennial health concern, is being addressed with bone broth, kombucha, and jack fruit. CBD/cannabidiol oil, which has grown in usage by 49% from spring 2019 through fall 2020, is a top growing substance consumers are trying to help with anxiety and stress during this stressful time.    

While it is generally understood that a nutritious, well-balanced diet promotes good health, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of how their food and beverage choices can help them manage and, in some cases, reverse certain medical conditions. In November 2020, 43% of U.S. adults said that staying healthy and living longer was a top wellness goal they wanted to achieve with their food and beverage choices, reports NPD. Many of the top growing foods and substances consumers are trying during the pandemic were already emerging prior to COVID-19.

“Food can be like fashion fads, in one day and out the other, and certainly during the pandemic health is top-of-mind with the majority of us as are the foods that help improve our health,” says Darren Seifer, NPD’s food and beverage industry analyst. “What’s important to food manufacturers and marketers moving forward is to understand which of these foods will remain a part of consumers’ diets long-term and which will not.”    

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About The NPD Group
NPD offers data, industry expertise, and prescriptive analytics to help our clients grow their businesses in a changing world. Over 2,000 companies worldwide rely on us to help them measure, predict, and improve performance across all channels, including brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, and B2B. We have services in 19 countries worldwide, with operations spanning the Americas, Europe, and APAC. Practice areas include apparel, appliances, automotive, beauty, books, B2B technology, consumer technology, e-commerce, fashion accessories, food consumption, foodservice, footwear, home, home improvement, juvenile products, media entertainment, mobile, office supplies, retail, sports, toys, and video games. For more information, visit npd.com. Follow us on Twitter: @npdgroup.

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