Year-End Survey Reveals American Food Habits In 2020 And Hopes For 2021

2020 has been a year like no other. Earlier this year the International Food Information Council (IFIC), a nonprofit educational organization that works to communicate science-based information about health, nutrition, food safety and agriculture, released its 15th Annual Food & Health Survey. The results of this year’s study were undoubtedly impacted by the pandemic, and as a result IFIC conducted their first-ever year-end survey. 1,000 interviews were conducted among adults ages 18 and older from December 3 to December 5, 2020. Responses were weighted to ensure proportional results.

“Given the massive shifts in personal and societal behaviors resulting from COVID-19, we thought that this year was particularly ripe for assessing how people had managed their eating, cooking and shopping habits,” Ali Webster, PhD, RD and director of research and nutrition communications at IFIC, told me. “We also wanted to be forward looking in both a hopeful and a realistic way and did so by asking people both what they were excited and concerned about when it comes to food in the year ahead.” 

While it seemed like everyone was tending to sourdough starters and baking banana bread, the survey found that cooking more simple, easy-to-prepare foods was the biggest trend (36{c33c21346ff5e26ab8e0ae3d29ae4367143f0d27c235e34c392ea37decdb8bed} of respondents), followed closely by trying new recipes (30{c33c21346ff5e26ab8e0ae3d29ae4367143f0d27c235e34c392ea37decdb8bed} of respondents). “Trends like bread baking and investing in new kitchen gadgets got a lot of press this year, but when it came down to it, the largest shifts in cooking habits were much more straightforward,” Webster said. Only 17{c33c21346ff5e26ab8e0ae3d29ae4367143f0d27c235e34c392ea37decdb8bed} of respondents selected baking more bread or other baked goods when asked about how their cooking habits changed over the past year.

Looking forward to 2021, eating with friends or family members more often topped the list of things people are excited about when it comes to food (29{c33c21346ff5e26ab8e0ae3d29ae4367143f0d27c235e34c392ea37decdb8bed} of respondents), followed closely behind by not worrying as much about COVID-19 when shopping for food and dining out. “It’s not necessarily surprising, given the way we’ve had to live our lives this year, but I found it striking that when we asked people what excited them the most about food in the year ahead, the top responses were all related to COVID-19,” Webster said. “We really just want to be eating with our friends and families, going out to restaurants, and not worrying as much about COVID when grocery shopping and dining out.”  

When asked about food- or beverage-related New Year’s resolutions, 85{c33c21346ff5e26ab8e0ae3d29ae4367143f0d27c235e34c392ea37decdb8bed} of respondents noted that they do not plan on making one. “In February 2020 we released a survey that found 42{c33c21346ff5e26ab8e0ae3d29ae4367143f0d27c235e34c392ea37decdb8bed} of people had made a change to their eating or drinking habits since the start of the year,” Webster said. “This seems to signify that at least early in 2021, people aren’t investing energy into fad diets or being as overly restrictive with food as they may have been in past years. I have to say that I’m supportive of this sentiment—haven’t we already been through enough stress this year?”

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