The survey of 2,000 adults found 55% of respondents said an indulgent treat helped boost their mood during lockdown. A total of 39% admitted to snacking more frequently since COVID-19 restrictions began.
More than a third said they had become more health conscious since the start of the pandemic. More than one in five said they were looking for confectionery, bakery or snacks with low sugar, salt or fat.
The research showed the quest for such snacks was most prevalent among younger people aged 18 to 34. These consumers were the biggest snackers and were the most likely to have become more concerned about their health since the start of lockdown.
Olam Cocoa said it saw an unexpected boom in plant-based foods. More than one in five consumers said they had consumed more plant-based products since the start of lockdown, rising to 37% among 18-to-34 year-olds. A total of 45% of that group were open to trying such products.
These views were driven most by health concerns, followed by environmental issues, according to the survey’s results.
Olam said the growing interest in healthy snacking was demonstrated in part by consumers who were previously slow adopters. Fewer than one in ten male consumers said they always purchased plant-based food pre-lockdown. However, almost a third said they had purchased dairy-free alternatives since lockdown restrictions were first introduced.
Milk alternatives were the most popular plant-based purchase, with almost half of respondents saying they had bought such a product during lockdown.
The research indicated these consumers were most excited to try dairy-free ice cream, with dairy-free chocolate not far behind. It also revealed that concerns about taste, texture and limited ranges were still putting some consumers off from adding dairy-free alternatives to their baskets.
“As this research shows, lockdown has changed our attitudes towards food and snacking,” said Wouter Stomph, ingredient development and innovation expert at Olam Cocoa.
“While the appetite for chocolate and other indulgent snacks remains as strong as ever, consumers want those treats to be a little better for them.”
“The growing interest in plant-based and dairy free foods is especially exciting. But to seize the market opportunity food manufacturers will have to innovate fast to make these products more widely available and to make sure their taste and texture pass muster with their discerning consumers.”