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Yes, Americans are eating chips, Oreos and junk food right now. Here’s why

Consumers across the country have started to stock up on less-than-healthy foods amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Packages of Nabisco Oreo cookies line a shelf in a market in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Packages of Nabisco Oreo cookies line a shelf in a market in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018.
Gene J. Piskar, Associated Press

The coronavirus quarantine has encouraged Americans to eat more junk food, and there’s a psychological reason behind it.

What’s happening:

  • Consumers across the country have started to stock up on less-than-healthy foods amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gone are the days of kale, quinoa and oat milk. Here again are the days of Oreos, Cheetos and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, according to Bloomberg.
  • Companies such as General Mills Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., Campbell Soup Co. and Kraft Heinz Co. have all reported between 10% and 20% sales gains in the four weeks since March 8. Breakfast food and soup have specifically sold well.
  • Hormel Food Corp.’s reported a 37% increase in Spam sales. Oreo-maker Mondelez International saw sales jumps among Oreos and cookies, too, according to Bloomberg.

Some more numbers:

  • Popcorn sales — 48% increase
  • Pretzel sales — 47% jump
  • Potato chips — 30% jump

Why the shift toward processed foods

  • Americans have made this shift toward processed foods due to worries about the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The buyers specifically want to find foods that could live on their shelves for months and won’t go bad over the quarantine, according to The New York Times.
  • “These simple and easy-to-make meals also fill the bill for people trying to squeeze a fast lunch in between Zoom meetings for work or for parents feeding their newly home-schooled children.”
  • Robert Moskow, an analyst at Credit Suisse, told The New York Times that the companies often make these shifts during times of recessions.
  • Moskow said, “We counted three economic recessions in the past 30 years, and in each of them the data show that consumers shifted more toward at-home food consumption to save money, away from the structural trend of eating away from the home. I would expect food-at-home consumption to increase, and not just for the next two months but for the next 12 months.”

Comfort food has power

According to Forbes, comfort food can be powerful for people in times of hardship. Food can represent something familiar and connect you to your past.

Sometimes food can bring you back to more comforting days, too.

“A comforting dish could represent a happier time in your life — a fond childhood memory of grandmother’s cooking or a beloved meal from a honeymoon. Or that craving could just be your mindset: Maybe you’re a taco-loving California girl trapped in the body of a native New Yorker. If so, pay for the extra guacamole,” according to Forbes.