LONDON — Packed lunches have become more popular in the coronavirus (COVID-19) era, according to a study from Streetbees, a global intelligence platform based in London. Among students who have returned to brick-and-mortar schools, the number of packed lunches has increased by about 10% this year, which has led to an increased use of pre-packaged snacks.
The study included more than 1,200 parents in the United States and the United Kingdom. More than 3.5 million people across 189 countries use the Streetbees app to share videos, photos and text. Information for the study was collected from postings on the app by targeting parents in the United States and the United Kingdom who have children under age 18.
Among parents concerned about COVID-19 risk and food preparation, 80% said they liked to prepare their children’s lunches because they can control how healthy the lunches are, which compared to 55% for parents not concerned about COVID-19 transmission from food. Concern was higher in the United States where 50% of parents said they worried about the risk of COVID-19 that food could bring.
Among parents preparing lunches because of COVID-19 concerns, 36% said they were buying more pre-packaged snacks, which compared to 24% for those not concerned. About a third of parents said they were buying pre-packaged snacks that students eat outside the lunch hour.
In the United States, 29% of children in the study had gone back to brick-and-mortar schools full-time. In both countries, parents who have children learning virtually at home said they have increased purchases of pre-packaged snacks by 33%, which compared to 25% for parents who have children going to brick-and-mortar schools.
The most common snacks eaten during the day were potato chips at 63%, crackers at 60% and cereal/protein bars at 53%. Brands in the snack categories have an opportunity to promote the long-lasting energy and nutritional information of their products as well as hygiene/sustainability efforts around the packaging, according to Streetbees.