Seeking Comfort During a Pandemic

Posted October 23, 2020 by Alyssa Stahr

I’m the first to admit: I’ve never been a hugger. Anytime someone would run up to embrace me, I’d slink away like a cat, with my arms to my side or a give a quick back pat to get out of the suffocating hold as quickly as possible. My close friends know this fact, so naturally they would preface our greeting with, “I know you’re not a hugger, but …” and then go for it anyway. Oh, how I miss those days. 

Having lived in Europe for a stint, I turned into being much more of a double cheek kisser, another form of greeting and touch that for some odd reason I enjoy much more than feeling like I’m in a straightjacket of someone else’s arms. But either way, none of those things are happening and haven’t happened for quite some time. Another admission: The lack of human touch is doing a number on my mental health along with countless others. Dr. Jon Reeves, clinical psychologist, told, “touch is our first language and one of our core needs. The touch of a safe, trusted loved one can alleviate anxiety and promote a sense of well being without doing anything else.” Touch is an essential part of our development, permeating through our skin, which is the first sense organ to develop in the womb. Lack of touch as infants “has shown adverse effects on the behavior such as hostile aggression, shyness, difficulties eating food, stubbornness and excessive crying.” I’m here to say those adverse effects are happening with this adult too. 

Even though we’re in this together, this pandemic has made a lot of us feel miles apart from our creature comforts. Conversations surrounding food and beverage have helped bridge that gap, and I’ve noticed some common comfort eating and drinking themes as of late.

  1. Seeking health and wellness in foods. Ingredients and nutrition company ADM notes 77% of consumers “intend to make more attempts to stay healthy in the future. They’re increasing focus on gut health and their immune systems. They’re buying more plant-based/alternative protein foods. They’re more focused on weight gain during the pandemic, which has caused us to be less active and more stressed generally. 
  2. Chocolate and candy are even more comforting. The National Confectioners Association says that overall sales have increased 3.8% since the onset of COVID, due to their “uncanny ability to boost moods and lighten perspectives.” And, for those venturing out to the grocery store, shopping for candy and chocolate has become another comfort. Chocolate and candy sales in the grocery channel are up 16.6%.
  3. Baked goods. It comes as no surprise that baked goods and comfort are synonymous. Baking reminds us of simpler times of togetherness and indulgence, and with families spending more time together in quarantine, they’re looking for ways to reduce stress. Baking Business reports that smaller cakes are selling well, with grocery cakes an eighth of the size of a standard one selling 12% more. Perhaps this harkens back to No. 1 on my list: indulgences, but with less guilt. Consumers want to get in and get out quickly, so snack cakes and smaller baked goods can satisfy a quick fix. 
  4. Coffee. Americans are gravitating away from energy drinks and more toward coffee, reports Packaged Facts’ “US Beverage Market Outlook 2020: Grocery Shopping & Personal Consumption in the Coronavirus Era,” says that consumers are seeking coffee due to emotional needs and benefits that coffee offers. Coffee has a wide distribution, from c-stores, to grocery stores to Starbucks, to online, so convenience is a huge factor as well in seeking comfort in a cup of mocha, latte, cappuccino or chai.

How are you finding comfort in today’s climate? Is it with food, at-home workouts, FaceTime, or something else? 

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