In the early stages of the pandemic, consumers resorted to eating more comfort foods to deal with stressful situations. Now with two years of experience with the pandemic, health and wellness have become more significant drivers of their eating choices, according to The NPD Group.

At the highest level, four macro needs drive all consumption: fueling, wellness, connecting and gratifying. Fueling is the top driver influencing 33 percent of all eating occasions. The need for wellness grew throughout the pandemic and is second to fueling as a consumption driver, directly impacting 21 percent of all eating occasions, which amounts to billions of occasions annually.

NPD expects wellness as a consumption driver to remain elevated into the foreseeable future. The importance of strong immunity remains a top focus. Foods and ingredients that build immunity, like elderberry, jackfruit and bone broth, are popular with consumers.

“The pattern of consumer attention to health and wellness shows increasing awareness and adaptation across the board,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at The NPD Group and author of America’s Health Pulse report. “This means consumers no longer think of health and wellness as an add-on, but as an integrated part of how they live their lives; that, in turn, opens opportunity for brands to become a permanent solution.”