Americans sweet on chocolate during pandemic, study finds

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(NEXSTAR) — “I sure could go for some chocolate right now.”

If you’ve said something similar lately, especially as the pandemic continues, you’re not alone.

Americans have given free rein to their sweet tooth since the pandemic started, according to findings by NCsolutions, a leading advertising effectiveness company.

From February 24 through September 30, considered the pandemic buying period in the study, spending on confections, baked goods and baking supplies was 9 percent higher when compared to the same period in 2019, NCsolutions found.

“Though Americans joked about needing even more chocolate as COVID-19 upended routines, the data support the lighthearted commentary,” the company said.

Between March 11 and March 21, which NCSolutions defined as the “extreme-buying phase,” consumers spent 26 percent more on chocolate candy specifically. Over the entire pandemic period, spending on the sweet treat continued to be 4 percent higher than in 2019.

In addition to chocolate, the category of confections, baked goods and baking supplies includes non-chocolate candy, desserts, baking mixes, candy, cookies, frozen baked goods, ice cream, marshmallows, pie crusts and mixes, pie fillings, puddings and gelatins, snack cakes and sugar itself.

“Traditionally, spending on sweets during this time of year rises. Sweets such as chocolate, cakes and pies are a significant element of holiday celebrations, starting with Halloween and continuing through New Year’s Day,” NCSolutions CEO Linda Dupree said in a statement. “This annual trend, coupled with the pandemic-driven sustained interest in cooking and baking, indicates that consumer enthusiasm for the category will remain strong.”

Throughout the pandemic, spending on other sweet and dessert items, especially baking products, have been consistently higher.

“Americans turned to baking their own cakes and cookies, and sales of baking mixes and sugar surged early in the pandemic,” the company said.

Compared to the same time last year, sales of baking mixes were 38 percent higher and sugar sales were 26 percent higher. Spending on pie filling was up 35 percent, and it was 23 percent higher on pie crusts and mixes. During the extreme-buying stage, sales of both baking mixes and sugar saw significant spikes, with mixes surging 159 percent and sugar jumping 118 percent.

There was also more interest in prepared food items. Americans purchased more frozen baked goods over the pandemic period, up 25 percent as compared to 2019, with spending increases also on desserts (19 percent), ice cream (16 percent) and cookies (9 percent).

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve noticed a tidal wave of nostalgia sweep over the nation, as consumers buy more comfort foods and seek the sweet treats they need for their pandemic sweet tooth,” Dupree said. “Sweets — both homemade and store-bought — will continue to be part of the comfort food mix.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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