In March, at the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Americans seemed to fear the worst and stockpiled supplies such as medicine, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and canned goods. YouGov’s international COVID-19 attitudinal and behavioral tracker found that from March to May, 34 percent of Americans participated in some form of panic-buying.
A separate YouGov survey from May finds that some Americans have adjusted their purchase habits toward canned and frozen foods. At least three in 10 say they have been buying frozen fruit or vegetables (30%) and frozen meats or seafood (30%) more frequently since the start of the outbreak. Canned goods are also becoming more popular and 33 percent say they have been buying canned fruits or vegetables more than usual.
Though a majority say their buying habits of canned and frozen foods have not changed, few say they have been purchasing these products less often than usual.
Do people consider canned and frozen foods to be as healthy as fresh foods?
The onset of lockdowns and supply shortages may have precipitated the popularity of canned and frozen goods, but people’s perception of some of these items are favorable regardless of the outbreak. This appears to be the case with frozen foods: three in five Americans say frozen items are either healthier (15%) or equally as healthy (45%) as fresh foods.
Canned foods do not tend to be viewed as favorably as frozen items with just 35 percent of people saying that canned items are either healthier (10%) or equally as healthy (25%) as fresh foods. In this case, Americans are more likely to say that canned items are less healthy than fresh items (65%).
How often do Americans use canned and frozen foods?
Canning and freezing foods are two of the most popular ways to preserve ingredients and items that otherwise would expire within days or weeks. Many canned goods have a shelf life of up to five years which may be why Americans want to have them handy in cases of emergencies such as the uncertainties brought on by COVID-19.
These items are not only pantry staples but are frequently used in everyday cooking and food preparation. Most American say they use canned foods (55%) or frozen foods (67%) at least once a week or more. At least a fifth say they use them at least once a month and it is rare for Americans to say they never use canned foods or frozen foods.
Methodology: YouGov’s survey on canned and frozen foods is based on the interviews of 1,179 US adults aged 18 and over. The interviews were conducted online between May 18 to 19, 2020 and results have been weighted to be nationally representative. See the full results here.
Read more on how COVID-19 impacts attitudes and behaviors in the US