Among the greatest surprises for grain-based foods associated with the coronavirus pandemic has been the sharp and sustained jump in family flour demand in the United States and beyond. Keeping supermarket shelves stocked with family flour was impossible early in the outbreak and remains hit or miss.
Passion for home baking has ebbed as the pandemic continues, but not too much. The latest figures from Chicory, a New York-food data firm show a sharp falloff in searches for “sourdough starter” to an average of about 7,500 per day, down from a peak average of 27,000 in April. Still, even at recent lows, searches were up more than 350% from pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, Chicory data showed searches for sourdough (without starter) have remained far closer to April highs, suggesting strong continued interest in ambitious home baking even after consumers achieve mastery of making and regularly feeding their sourdough starter.
Chicory data are affirmed by other sources. On the popular site Pinterest, sourdough searches in late May were still 236% higher than before the pandemic began. Google searches were up 340%. Meanwhile, Pinterest searches at the end of May for “gluten free” were down 53% from August 2019. How home baking will fare once more Americans return to work remains to be seen, but the sustained interest in home baking together with the diminished fascination with gluten-free eating offer a powerful potential opportunity. It’s one grain-based foods must not miss.