Analysis: America's Obsession With Junk Food

July 21st marks National Junk Food Day, a day which gives us all a special excuse to binge on our favorite salty and/or sweet guilty pleasure snacks with a little less guilt than usual.

Internet lore indicates the unofficial holiday started all of the way back in 1860 when the first fish and chips shop opened at Tommyfield Market in Oldham, England.

Of course, the holiday’s unofficial origins aren't going to hold anyone back from celebrating by sinking their teeth into a glazed donut or polishing off a sleeve of Oreo cookies. And it’s not going to stop us from celebrating in our favorite way: by digging into our data to learn more about online demand for junk food.

Has online demand for junk food been on the rise? Or have Americans been cutting back? Did COVID-19 bring a huge rush on online demand? Has 2021 seen online demand drop as we’ve seen things begin to reopen across the country?

To find the answers to these questions and more, our data science team analyzed online demand for junk food starting in 2019 through the first half of 2021.

When is online demand highest for different types of junk food?

We started by examining weekly online demand for different types of junk food from January 2020 through 2021 so far. Let’s start by examining one of the most ubiquitous and classic of American snacks: chips.

Online demand for chips appears to be rather consistent throughout the year, with two notable exceptions. First, there was a major spike in online demand for chips during the height of the pandemic lockdowns in Spring 2020. As consumers flooded grocery stores and supermarkets, it seems that millions of Americans went online to stock up on chips as well.

The other interesting finding is how demand for chips fluctuates during the holidays. It seems that when it comes to the holidays, chips are an afterthought during Christmas, but a vital part of New Year’s.

Next up, we examined cookies, the sweeter yin to chip’s salty yang when it comes to prepackaged junk food favorites.

Demand for cookies also experienced a prolonged boost during lockdown, though one that wasn’t quite as strong as chips received.

Instead it’s Christmas and Valentine’s Day that appear to be the biggest times of the year for online cookie purchasing. It also looks like online demand for cookies is on the rise, as demand for cookies this Valentine’s Day absolutely dwarfed demand during the same time in 2020.

Our next junk food category? Meat. While you may not typically see meat as a major junk food, the types of meats most likely to be purchased online would certainly fall into a specific type of snack or junk food, and one we thought would be interesting to compare to the more “standard” snacks in our analysis

Once again, COVID lockdowns drove a lot of demand for meat, a category which remains consistent throughout the year. Until Christmas, that is.

Online demand for meat during the two weeks leading up to Christmas goes up by over 120% compared to the average week during the year.

What about the real sweet tooths out there? Let’s take a look at online demand for candy:

Candy’s biggest times of the year are the ones you’d most expect: Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. Once again, demand shot up during the early weeks of lockdown, which also happened to coincide with Easter as well.

One interesting exception in 2020, however, was Halloween. While we see a moderate lift during the end of October, it surprisingly pales in comparison to the other major candy holidays. This may be due to COVID-19 putting a damper on trick or treating and the holiday in general, but we’ll dive deeper into this later on.

For now, let’s examine our last category of junk food: baked goods (this includes items like donuts, pastries, muffins, etc.)

COVID-19 appears to have had a larger impact on demand for baked goods than any other time of year. Demand remained high throughout much of the earliest months of the pandemic before slowing to a consistent rate throughout the summer.

Christmas and Valentine’s Day also appear to drive high demand for baked goods, but primarily in the weeks just before Thanksgiving and Christmas. Demand during the weeks of the holidays themselves actually dropped quite a bit.

Out of all the major junk food staples in our analysis, it appears that soda may have experienced the most sustained lift from the pandemic. Online demand shot up right as shutdowns began and soda quickly disappeared from supermarket shelves.

Demand dropped somewhat in late April, but has remained consistently ahead of pre-pandemic levels all the way through 2021 so far.

Finally, for a more direct comparison of seasonal trends for each type of junk food, here’s a chart comparing the change in demand for each week compared to the total average for each category:

The biggest COVID boost went to chips, while candy received the next largest bump, although delayed by a few weeks (most likely due to Easter).

All types of junk foods, except for chips and soda, receive a major boost during the holidays, with meat receiving easily the largest.

Cookies and candy received equally large boosts during Valentine’s Day 2021, while candy got one of the most significant boosts in the analysis during Easter this year.

A closer look at the impact of COVID-19 on different types of junk food

The charts above show that COVID-19 had a clear and distinct impact on online demand for junk food. Each category in our analysis saw demand spike during the early weeks of the pandemic as millions of Americans began to stock up to prepare to shelter in place.

To even better understand what kind of impact COVID-19 had on online demand for junk food, we next decided to compare some of 2020’s trends against 2019. That way we could see just how much extra junk food we were all buying compared to a more “normal” year.

Most categories saw huge spikes in demand during March and April, so we started by comparing total demand in those two months during 2020 and comparing them to demand in March and April of 2019.

Demand for junk food in March and April of last year dwarfed demand during the same months in 2019. Chips got the biggest early COVID boost, with a 167% increase in demand. Demand for baked goods was a close second with a 150% increase, and meat and cookies both experienced a 135% boost.

Only candy failed to see demand increase by over 100%, but just barely. In a normal year, March and April are big candy months, and demand for the sweet stuff was still up an impressive 98% in 2020.

But what about the rest of the year?

Did demand drop once things began to open back up over the summer? Was 2020’s holiday spike actually smaller than 2019’s?

For a clearer picture of the COVID’s long term effects, we next compared demand for May through December in 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019:

Demand did, indeed, remain high throughout the rest of 2020 when compared to 2019. Soda easily saw the highest sustained demand throughout the rest of the year with an 82% increase. Thanks to production issues like an aluminum can shortage, consumers have frequently had a hard time finding their favorite sodas in stock at their local grocery store since COVID began. So it comes as no surprise that online demand has remained consistently higher than other junk foods that haven’t faced similar sustained challenges throughout 2020.

That’s not to say that demand came crashing down for the rest of our favorite junk foods. Meat, chips, and cookies both saw demand up over 40%, while baked goods and candy experienced 37% and 36% year-over-year boosts.

Candy’s relatively strong year-over-year performance leads us to believe that the mild October we saw in the previous section wasn’t due to a slow Halloween, but was instead typical seasonality. But let’s take an even closer look for a clearer picture of how demand for junk food has changed over the past few years.

Is online demand for junk food on the rise?

Online demand for junk food was definitely up last year. Maybe we were all eating our feelings to get through the pandemic, or maybe we were simply far more likely to shop online to avoid unnecessary trips to the supermarket.

To better understand these trends, and what we might expect to see the rest of this year as the world begins to re-open, let’s examine the trendlines for the past two and a half years for each category.

Online demand for chips appears to definitely be on the rise. Even before COVID lockdowns, demand in 2020 was ahead of early 2019. You can see the clear and remarkable spike in demand during March and April, and while no month of 2021 has so far matched those heights, demand is on track to stay well ahead of 2020 through the rest of the year.

We see a slightly different story when examining the trends for cookies, however. As we saw with chips, there was a remarkable increase between 2020 and 2019. 2021 started the year strong, but has dipped below 2020 for every month since March so far.

This could be a simple return to normal seasonal trends, or it could be that more people are venturing out to get their cookies at bakeries and grocery stores than in 2020. We’ll be keeping an eye on this trend as the summer progresses.

Online demand for meat jumped quite a bit from 2019 to 2020, but it appears that may have stalled a bit here in 2021. So far this year, demand has been slightly ahead of last year, then slightly behind, and now is nearly on par with what we saw in 2020.

Easter’s influence on online demand for candy is on full display here. In 2020, the combination of early lockdown and Easter saw demand surge during the month of April. In 2021, Easter fell in March, the same month as St. Patrick’s Day which itself is a mildly popular candy holiday. With the vaccine rollout still in early stages, online demand for candy reached new heights that month.

April 2021, without Easter there to boost it up, saw demand fall behind 2020, but it appears to be on track to remain close to 2020’s levels for the rest of the year.

Another interesting observation here is October. It does appear that 2020 saw a slightly smaller boost during the month of Halloween in 2020 than in 2019, but it could be that we sampled types of candy more popular for personal consumption than what you might buy to give away for trick or treaters. We’ll take a much closer look at candy trends later this year as Halloween approaches.

During a normal year, demand for baked goods remains rather consistent from month to month. During the height of lockdowns, demand surged as people turned to online options as their local bakeries and donut shops closed down.

And so far it appears that 2021 may see online demand slow down as more and more bakeries begin to reopen.

This view reemphasizes the major impact the pandemic had on online demand for soda. Demand was extremely stable from month to month in 2019, showing Americans enjoy soda equally no matter the time of year.

But once COVID-19 hit, and your favorite soda became frequently harder to find at the supermarket, shoppers turned to online shopping in droves. This trend has continued through 2021 so far, and we will be watching closely to see if online demand stays high even as the production issues the soda industry has faced continue to recede.

In summation, it appears online demand for junk food for most categories is slowing down. Whether this is due to a combination of more people returning to shopping at brick and mortar locations, or if people are focusing more on shedding those few extra pounds from lockdown — your guess is as good as ours. Either way, we’ll be keeping an eye on these and similar trends in the weeks and months ahead.

A lesson for brands

Our data shows that COVID-19 has had a major impact on online demand for snacks and junk food, impacting some types far more than others.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

For example, we may continue to see online demand for junk food decline as more people begin to go out to get a sweet snack or some baked goods. However, we might also see demand stay high as people have grown more accustomed to buying snacks online when looking to eat their feelings.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

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Amazon's Sponsored Product ads
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What Are Amazon’s Advertising Products? Sponsored Product, Brand, & Display Ads

What Are Amazon’s Advertising Products? Sponsored Product, Brand, & Display Ads

Utilizing Amazon sponsored ads can be a smart way for a brand to drive greater traffic to a product listing and start increasing sales. While many brands still struggle to manage their advertising strategies, 30% of Amazon brand sellers increased their advertising budgets in 2022. As ecommerce executives (or even on the nose with VPs of ecommerce?)  approve their 2023 advertising budgets, it may be worth it to take a look at Amazon’s advertising products and the benefit they may have on increasing conversions. 

​​Pattern is the premier ecommerce accelerator with all of the expertise, data-driven insights, and technology brands need to gain control on Amazon and maintain their competitive niche. We know the high value of and how to utilize Amazon’s advertising products to drive the most traffic and conversions to benefit and accelerate your brand.

Here are Amazon’s three main advertising products you should know about in order to drive listing traffic to your products and increase conversions: 

For a brand executive who is selling their product on Amazon, you may not already know the differences between campaign type, so we will walk you through the differences and uses for each of these three ad campaigns.

Sponsored Product Ads

Sponsored Products are a mid-funnel advertising strategy that gives visibility to products above the top organic listings (see example below). This strategy uses custom keywords to get products in front of the consumers who are searching for them, however it can be used to capture new audiences as well.These cost-per-click (CPC) ads require no additional copy or images, but usually receive the most interaction of the campaigns and need to be monitored closely.

As you can see, these ads look just like an organic listing, however they say, “Sponsored,” on them. These types of ads can be especially effective forms of advertising because they tend to blend in with the organic results around them. With Sponsored Products, you can get your products in front of qualified customers who are searching for your product in such a way that doesn’t make them feel like they are being served an advertisement.

Sponsored Brand Ads

Sponsored Brand Ads are a top-of-funnel brand awareness tool and function on keywords. This ad format helps show a customer what they may be in need of and where to get it.  Commonly used to promote product lines or best sellers, a Sponsored Brand ad shows up as a banner above the search results (see example below). This type of ad requires that the brand showcase at least three separate products.

Unlike other campaigns used on the Amazon platform, Sponsored Brand ads require ad copy and a unique logo. These ads also can take customers to a custom landing page, or a page on the brand store, that way they get a clear and overall picture about who your brand is, what other products you sell, and why they can trust your brand

Sponsored Display Ads

Sponsored Display ads can be a tactic for top, middle, or bottom of the advertising funnel due to its varying targeting abilities. Although most commonly found under the bullet points of a detail page, these ads can also show in emails, newsletters, and even more locations off platform.

Unlike the previous ad campaigns discussed, sponsored display ads can target shopping behaviors, like repeat purchasers, similar product purchasers, and even people who viewed the detail page but did not buy. Sponsored Display ads help customers discover your brand, drive awareness, and create loyalty. 

The example above shows just one of the many placements Sponsored Display has.

Accelerate Your Sponsored Products With Pattern 

Rather than competing with each other, each of the three sponsored ad products focus on a different section of the sales funnel, allowing you to target your customers and hit your sales numbers, all while edging out possible competitors. When brands use these advertising campaigns, they can better optimize their ad budget to improve ROAS and build revenue. 

At Pattern, we have all the resources to help your brand build successful advertising and digital marketing campaigns on Amazon so you can increase traffic and conversions, which will in turn increase your revenue

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022
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Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 27th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon drives renewable energy push with 71 new projects Amazon is planning to add 2.7 gigawatts of clean energy capacity through a couple of new projects as the company attempts to use 100% renewable energy by 2025. The ecommerce business will soon have a total of 329 renewable energy projects, generating 50,000 gigawatt hours of clean energy, which is equivalent to powering 4.6 million US homes every year. [Read more on Reuters](https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/amazon-drives-renewable-energy-push-with-71-new-projects-2022-09-21/) Amazon launches Prime Early Access Sale Amazon is launching a new 2-day shopping event for its Prime members only, beginning on the 11th of October. Across 15 countries, Prime customers will have access to the shopping event, with thousands of deals on offer globall, ranging from fashion to electronics to essentials. The event has the purpose of giving Prime users the chance to spread the cost of items over the winter months, 6 weeks ahead of Black Friday. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/26/prime-early-access-sale/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Shopify unveils new localisation tool Shopify is launching a new localisation tool, called Translate & Adapt, which works with Shopify Markets to offer localisation for sellers who are looking to expand into new markets. The tool translates a user’s online store into different languages, including product pages and information pages. Merchants are also able to create different shipping terms for each market using the new tool, which allows international expansion and offers a more localised consumer experience, unveiling new potential. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/shopify-launches-new-localisation-tool/) Etsy is set to invest hundreds of millions into its marketing platform Etsy CEO claims that the company is on route to spend more than $570 million USD on marketing this year. Even during a time of macroeconomic pressure, inflation and rising interest rates, the company is preparing itself and its sellers for the upcoming holiday season and is focused on retaining interest from buyers. [Read more on Yahoo News](https://uk.news.yahoo.com/etsy-600-million-on-marketing-ceo-154054219.html) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Meta looks to cut costs by 10% in the coming months Meta employees are facing job redundancies as the company plans to cut its costs by 10% over the next few months. Meta reported a 22% YoY increase in costs and expenses, totalling over $20 billion USD. The cuts are expected to come in the form of job redundancies as a result of department reorganisations rather than formal layoffs. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/22/meta-to-slash-costs-by-10-over-coming-months/) DHL teams up with Quadient to offer smart locker deliveries in the UK DHL and tech company, Quadient, have partnered to offer smart lockers parcel pick-up throughout the UK. The new contactless, secure locker stations will give recipients more choice and flexibility to receive their parcels at a time and location best suited to them. The partnership plans to install 500 locker stations across the country by the end of 2022. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/21/dhl-partners-with-quadient-to-offer-smart-locker-delivery/) The online fashion market is set to be worth nearly $170 billion USD in 2025 The European online fashion retail market is set to grow 50% by 2025, with an online turnover of $170 billion USD, which is 33% of the retail branch’s total. Cross-border marketplaces prove to be the largest drivers of this growth, with online websites and apps like Vinted largely pushing the market’s online growth. Zalando recently became the largest cross-border fashion retailer/marketplace, responsible for 11.7% of the online market’s share. [Read more on Ecommerce News](https://ecommercenews.eu/online-fashion-market-worth-e175-billion-in-2025/)

Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Peak with Google Ads
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Top 5 Ways to Prepare for Peak with Google Ads

Peak season is almost upon us and with all signs pointing to it starting earlier than ever, with Christmas gifting searches now ramping up in August and September, it’s time to start preparing for peak. In this article, we’re sharing our top five tips for planning and preparing for peak season with Google Ads and the strategies required to get your Paid Search ready so you can drive success over this crucial period.

1. Go Early

In 2021, gifting search terms started increasing in popularity in August. The general trend is that people are looking, researching and weighing their options early, so it’s best to start your Paid activity early to ensure that you’re capturing that early research traffic. This will help drive revenue alongside aiding those consumers who are in their research phase.

From 2020 to 2021, spend during Cyber Week actually only rose 2% but in the weeks leading up to it, it increased by 16%. However, Cyber Week is still the biggest period during the latter half of the year, accounting for 23% of all online spend by consumers over peak. Being prepared and starting early will help you to maximise your time during this period.

2. Get Ready for Privacy Changes

 According to Google, 48% of global consumers have stopped buying or using a service due to privacy concerns. Privacy is front of mind when consumers are shopping online and we know that Google is phasing out 3rd party cookies in 2023. This is going to make it much harder to track users online and it’s something that brands need to think about this now – waiting isn’t an option.

From a Google Ads point of view, you want to ensure you have set up the Google Ads tag across your site and have enabled ‘Enhanced Conversions’, which ensures all conversions are tracked and allows you to monitor other actions such as ‘Add to Cart.’ This is relatively easy to set up, especially if you use ‘Google Tag Manager’.

It’s also vitally important that you build up your first-party data during this time as this is data you own and it can be used when targeting consumers that have provided your brand with their email address. Pattern’s own experience shows that by segmenting and using first-party data, you can see a 10% improvement in revenue and ROI.

3. Ensure Consumers Can Discover your Brand

A full-funnel approach is now more important than ever as consumers become more discerning and have more choices than ever of where to shop.

Pattern has seen success with Google Ads’ ‘Discovery Campaigns’ (image-based ads that appear on Google platforms such as Gmail and the Google app), which have driven success both from a traffic and revenue perspective.

The performance of these campaigns is significantly enhanced by adopting a segmented and nuanced approach to first-party data and incorporating these into your campaigns. Other options for a full-funnel approach include YouTube and testing bidding on keywords that are more representative of the research phase. (e.g. ‘best baby clothes’ for a baby clothes brand)

4. Get Moving with Performance Max

Earlier this year, Google announced that they were moving away from Smart Shopping and launched Performance Max. This is a new campaign type that incorporates features and placements from Smart Shopping but expands them onto other platforms such as Gmail but also alternative creative options, such as images and videos.

Since Google has already started automatically upgrading Smart Shopping campaigns to Performance Max, expect to see some fluctuations in the first 2 weeks following the switch over but results generally seem positive. We recommend upgrading sooner rather than later to limit any potential impact to peak period.

5. Flight Budgets Accordingly

Peak period will be even more competitive than in 2021 and you’ll need your budgets to support this period, we recommend boosting budgets in October to start capturing that early peak traffic. As we enter November and the Cyber Period, start early and make sure you are capturing those consumers looking for early bargains, ensuring you are being nimble in your optimisations and reacting to the data that you are seeing.

Overall, peak period is vital to help drive your sales and by preparing early, you will see strong results and drive success for your brand. If you want to discuss how your brand can navigate this next peak period, contact us to discuss your options with our performance team now.