What COVID-19 Means for Fall Baking

Now that the weather is getting colder and backyard barbecues are coming to an end, many consumers are looking forward to one of the most popular fall traditions: baking. Pies, cookies, cakes, and Instagrammable treats tend to dominate the season, and are expected to play an even bigger role in our lives now that consumers are looking for fun indoor activities. But since COVID-19 and other recent events have changed so much about how we shop and the kinds of foods that we eat, how will festive baking be different this year?


Tradition and Hygiene are More Important than Ever

Although we’d seen consumers trending towards healthier products for the past several years, they’ve been reaching for comfort foods since the pandemic hit in March. According to Darren Seifer, a food industry analyst for the market research firm NPD Group, “If you are a food and beverage manufacturer, you need to be thinking about convenience and comfort right now.” Seifer also reported that while consumers shopped for fresh, seasonal produce for cooking at home, they were much more indulgent when it came to baking dessert.

While consumers had been pushing for more environmentally friendly packaging, this concern has taken a backseat to cleanliness during the pandemic. While baking supply brands that moved away from plastic and unnecessary packaging might have scored some bonus points with shoppers in years past, consumers have expressed a willingness to use more plastic if it means that it keeps their food safer. After more than five months of the pandemic, Baking Business reported that “nearly 70% of Americans said they are more concerned about safety and hygiene than environmental impact.”


Brand Leaders Should Look to Pinterest

In 2020, social media is where new baking trends come to life. Pinterest has been a great source for recipe discovery for the past few years, but a new feature that is being beta tested this week could have a major impact on how consumers plan and share baking ideas.

The platform’s new “Story Pins” allow users to post videos directly to Pinterest, which is similar to features that Instagram and Facebook have also released. However, Pinterest has designed their Story Pins to function differently than competitors’ products. David Temple, Pinterest’s head of content, explained to reporters that “story features on other platforms are designed to show you what people are doing. Story Pins are designed to show you how people are trying new ideas and new products. That means the features and intent are dramatically different.”

Pinterest has also sparked earlier interest in Christmas recipes than in years prior. The pandemic had consumers turning to the nostalgic comfort of Christmas as early as last April, and Pinterest reported that Christmas-related searches more than doubled compared to the same time in 2019. Searches specifically for “Christmas baking” jumped 108%, and Pinterest’s guide for brands indicated that holiday baking would be an important resource for people to feel a sense of normalcy. Now that the platform is working to integrate videos into users’ feeds, brands also have a new opportunity for sharing the kind of value-added holiday recipe content that consumers are searching for.

From what we’ve seen so far, we can expect that shoppers will be baking more, they’ll focus on holiday-themed baking much earlier in the season, and they’ll turn to social media (especially platforms like Pinterest) for new dessert ideas. They’ll also express interest in more traditional baking projects, and they’ll be more inclined to indulge in sugary treats that are comforting and nostalgic. Last spring’s baking phenomenon saw widespread ingredient shortages, and time will tell whether or not brands are prepared for the coming boom in festive seasonal treats.

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