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Sweets, treats, beer and …. Zoom! What we ate in lockdown

Andrew Mitchell, Executive Vice President International, IRI

As our homes became our world during lockdowns last year, we found new ways to cope and recreate social occasions online, or create new traditions with family, friends and colleagues.

We have probably all spent far too much time on Zoom calls since the start of the pandemic and it seems that this has given rise to the ‘aperitivo occasion’. According to IRI data, during the first lockdown of 2020, consumers in Europe spent €2.2 billion more on food and drink treats, an increase of 12% over the previous year.

Across seven countries (France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Netherlands and the UK) there was an increase in both snacks and spirits, driven in part by people coming together online and trying to recreate much missed evenings out in a virtual way.

Salty snacks were the big winners, growing in all countries, especially in Spain, Greece and Germany. The UK had the biggest increase, up 3.5% to €1.2 billion, suggesting that many people wanted that authentic ‘pub feel’ at home when bars and restaurants were closed.

It’s perhaps no surprise that alcohol sales were also up. But we saw some fascinating trends across Europe, with rum the standout drink in Greece and France, and gin in Italy and Germany. The Spanish preferred tequila, while the British stocked up on premixes, showing that even in lockdown there’s always an opportunity for a party.

Sales of wine rose in all countries, except in Greece where growth slowed during this time, and in France where total wines decreased by nearly a third. With celebrations cancelled, Champagne was most impacted, down more than half in France alone. Beer sales were up, the only alcohol category in growth in France, although Spain, the Netherlands and the UK were the countries with the highest sales growth during lockdown.

Family film nights in lockdown became the new ‘going out’ with families gathering together and eating popcorn on the sofa. In Italy, popcorn grew by over half and by 19% in Germany, returning to normal levels only once lockdown ended.

When it comes to sweet treats, sweets and candies mostly fell out of favour, with confectionery down in almost all countries. But it seems we cannot give up our habits altogether. While chocolate for seasonal celebrations suffered, particularly at Easter, overall it fared well, with many of us turning to home baking and cooking, helping drive the increase in bar chocolate.

For more information, read our ‘lockdown treats’ release

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