According to the NPD Group, the relationship between mood and eating played out significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, especially when it comes to snacking and treating ourselves.

In the market research company’s recently released Future of Snacking report, which shows what snack food consumption in America looks like now and over the next two years, snack foods and treats (both better-for-you and indulgent) help to fill voids created by sadness, boredom, stress and other moods. The average American consumer ate over 37% more snack foods and treats while feeling sad or depressed during the pandemic than they did in 2019.

Boredom is another powerful motivator for snacking, and consumers also tend to eat more snack foods and treats when cranky, stressed, anxious, calm and relaxed. Snack food consumption declines when consumers feel rushed, happy, good, tired, normal or neutral.

“Looking forward, the snack food and sweets industries need to keep a keen eye on the mental state of consumers, as changing times impact emotional needs for snack foods and treats,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Today it’s about fighting boredom and boosting mental well-being. Tomorrow, look for more sharing of snack foods and treats in social environments as shared experiences come back into focus and pent-up demand for these types of occasions is released.”