Survey: Americans Have Upped Their Snacking in Times of Stress

NEW YORK—While many things about the COVID-19 situation are unsettled and even mysterious, one aspect does seem to be true for most Americans: stuck at home, we can’t help but find more time for snacking.

Since mid-March—when the World Health Organization (WHO) first declared COVID-19 a pandemic—many Americans are reaching for potato chips and other treats in the pantry. A YouGov survey  released earlier this month of more than 9,000 American adults showed that more than one-third (36 percent) of the country has been snacking more during the pandemic.

Younger Americans, ages 18-24, are slightly more likely to be snacking more (45 percent), as are those ages 25-34 (44 percent). The survey also shows women (39 percent) are more likely than men (32 percent) to be snacking more.

As many Americans remain under shelter-in-place orders, many are suffering from boredom. According to ongoing YouGov Profiles data, 61 percent of Americans say they sometimes eat out of boredom, not out of hunger. This extra snacking has proven to be a boon for the potato chip category, as the number of Americans likely to purchase Lay’s brand chips has increased by 35 percent, according to YouGov’s report.

Right now, 18 percent of the American population say they’re likely to purchase a bag of Lay’s, the highest that figure has been in three years. The Lay’s brand was already a snack-sector leader among brands tracked by YouGov and that data also shows modest increase in purchase intent for potato chips in general.

Not only is this good news for the Lay’s brand, it is also a bit of good news for those further up the supply chain. According to YouGov, the pandemic has left potato farmers with at least a billion pounds of potatoes they can’t sell as production of French-fries destined for fast-food restaurants slows down. YouGov data that tracks fast-food sector performance throughout the COVID-19 crisis shows intent to purchase across the whole sector was down 11 percentage points compared to the same period in 2019.

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