Analysis: America’s Love Affair With Donuts (& Other Junk Food)

The first Friday of June marks National Doughnut Day, which was started by the Salvation Army way back in 1938 to raise money during the Great Depression while also honoring members who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.

With National Doughnut Day right around the corner, we thought this would be a perfect time to dive into online demand data for junk food: Does National Doughnut Day drive online demand for donuts like it does for brick and mortar locations? Did COVID-19 drive a spike in demand for salty and sugary snacks? And if so, is online junk food demand still high now that things are starting to open back up?

Our data science team analyzed market demand for junk food from 2019 through 2021 so far to find out the answer to these questions and more.

When is online demand highest for donuts?

Let’s start with a quick look at the daily demand for Donuts for every day last year:

Online demand for donuts was remarkably consistent throughout 2020. April 28th was the largest single-day for donut demand, while the day before St. Patrick’s Day (which was right around when COVID lockdowns began) was the second largest. Several of the biggest days of the year were all in the days immediately following initial COVID lockdowns, suggesting they drove a modest increase in demand.

National Donut Day, meanwhile, doesn’t appear to really move the needle for online demand for donuts, suggesting the holiday drives far more business to local bakeries and donut shops than widespread online demand.

While demand for donuts is remarkably steady, we suspected that wasn’t necessarily the case for most other types of junk food. So we dug deeper into the data by comparing relative change in weekly demand for different types of junk food:

This chart shows how much total demand increased or decreased compared to the average week throughout the year for each major category of junk food.

As you can see, demand for most types of junk food started last year below average. As millions of Americans start the year out with well-intentioned new year's resolutions, demand for chips, candy, soda, cookies, and desserts were all well below annual average.

Unsurprisingly, desserts, cookies, and candy all received a substantial bump during Valentine’s Day. In mid-March, as the pandemic began to spread and people began sheltering in place, demand for all types of junk food shot up.

Demand for chips nearly doubled the annual average during the week of March 15th, easily the largest immediate surge in our analysis. Demand for candy experienced the second largest peak, but somewhat later, during the week of March 29th.

After clearing out virtual (and physical) shelves early in the pandemic, demand stabilized by early summertime before peaking dramatically during the holidays. Demand for desserts peaked at a massive 208% increase during the week of Christmas. Demand for candy and cookies also peaked during that week, while demand for soda and donuts remained stable. Demand for chips, meanwhile, hit their annual low during the holiday season.

To underscore just how much the pandemic affected online demand for certain types of junk food, let’s examine total daily demand for chips, as they were the category that appeared to receive the largest COVID bump.

Demand for chips skyrocketed overnight as Americans prepared to shelter in place, hitting its apex on March 16th. Again, demand remained solidly high the rest of the year before dropping during the holidays.

2020 was obviously a rather unique year, so we next wanted to better understand how COVID-19 may have changed demand for junk food.

How did COVID-19 impact online demand for junk food?

In the previous section we saw demand spike in the earliest weeks of the pandemic, but for a clearer view on the long-term impact, we next compared demand in 2020 to demand in 2019.

2020 started out as a strong year for online snack sales. Demand was up for each category in January 2020 than in January 2019, with chips experiencing the strongest start to the year.

As the previous section suggested, and this chart reinforces, COVID-19 began to have a tremendous impact on demand in March. Demand skyrocketed for several types of snack foods, with demand for chips increasing by an astounding 204% year-over-year last March.

Demand for cookies also peaked in March, with a 149% increase over 2019, and demand for soda and candy nearly doubled.

Demand remained extremely high in April, although most categories saw year-over-year increases fall to slightly less dramatic levels. Demand for soda, interestingly, hit its year-over-year peak in April, likely driven by the in-store shortages the country was experiencing at the time.

Desserts also experienced a larger boost in April than in March, perhaps due in part to Americans turning to online shopping to supply their socially-distant Easter celebrations.

Year-over-year demand fell over the summer and fall for each of our categories, but still remained well ahead of 2019s figures. So despite an initial surge, it’s clear that 2020 remained an unusually strong year for online junk food sales.

Interestingly, donuts saw far more modest year-over-year increases, with demand in October actually falling behind 2019. It could be that donuts weren’t really people’s junk food of choice last year, or perhaps most were simply more willing to mask up for a visit to their local bakery when they had a craving for fresh donuts.

Is online demand still high for junk food in 2021?

It’s clear that 2020 brought a surge in online demand for all sorts of junk food, and that demand appeared to linger throughout the entire year. But have those trends continued this year? Is online demand for snack food falling as things begin to reopen? Or are we doing more stress eating than ever?

Let’s take a month-by-month view of total demand for 2019, 2020, and 2021 so far to see how things have looked so far. We’ll examine each category in a separate chart, starting first with chips:

Online demand for chips in January and February of this year outpaced the same months in 2020, but March saw demand both slightly from February’s total and far behind March 2020’s high-point.

Cookies have seen an even more dramatic example of the same trend:

As with chips, cookies started the year with a strong January and February, but this time the drop in March was even more dramatic. Demand also dropped from February to March in 2019, so this could also simply be the return to a typical seasonal trend.

Examining this view for soda, however, provides more evidence that online demand for junk food may be slowing somewhat. Once again, demand dipped somewhat from Feburary to March, and again from March to April.

Demand for desserts is also following a similar trend:

It’s still early in the year, but between these categories, there’s some evidence that online demand for junk food may be slowing somewhat as the pandemic begins to slow and things begin to reopen.

One category that didn’t see a decline from February to March was candy:

Demand for candy rose by 37% from February to March to hit its highest point of any month in our analysis. This is likely due to the combined impact of St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, which fell on April 5th but likely increased demand for candy in late March (a theory reinforced by demand dropping precipitously in April).

Overall, it appears online demand for junk food is softening. Whether this is due to a combination of more people returning to shopping at brick and mortar locations, or if people are simply looking to eat healthier as the world begins to reopen — 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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Sept 27, 2022

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/)
Sept 20, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 20th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon to raise pay and add extra work benefits for delivery drivers Following the rise in fuel prices and protests by Amazon workers, the ecommerce giant is raising its delivery drivers’ pay and adding more work benefits. Amazon has mentioned that it will be investing $450 million into rate increases along with an education program and a Delivery Service Partners program. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/amazon-to-raise-delivery-drivers-pay-and-add-more-work-benefits/) Amazon announces it will give away shipping software to merchants at no cost Amazon has recently announced that it will be giving ecommerce merchants free software to manage shopper orders on and off its platform as it extends its reach. The ecommerce giant will be ending monthly costs for sellers using Veeqo, a shipping software it recently acquired and instead offer to them a new, free shipping software. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/amazon-to-give-away-shipping-software-to-merchants/) --- Other Marketplace News --- Walmart unveils new virtual fitting rooms In an effort to drive clothing sales, Walmart has launched virtual fitting rooms while competitors reduce spending amid the cost of living crisis. The virtual try-on tool can be used by Walmart customers to virtually measure the clothing items and see how the products would look on them. Shoppers will now be able to see how over 270,000 clothing items on Walmart’s ecommerce site would look on their bodies. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/walmart-launches-virtual-fitting-rooms-to-drive-clothing-sales/?utmsource=Retail+Gazette+Subscribers&utmcampaign=2da7f0f8f8-EMAILCAMPAIGN202209150742&utmmedium=email&utmterm=0d23e2768b6-2da7f0f8f8-61040615) THG slashes sales and profit expectations The Hut Group has slashed its forecasts for 2022 as rising interest rates, inflation and energy costs take a toll on consumers. Previously, THG estimated its sales growth to be between 22-25% but after a recent evaluation, has lowered this prediction to between 10-15%. Initial predictions did not take into account the negative effects of ceasing sales in Russia and Ukraine along with the impact that the cost-of-living has had on consumer spending. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/15/thg-slashes-forecast-as-cost-of-living-crisis-hits-consumers-wallets/) --- Other Ecommerce News --- DHL and Post Office team up to provide click and collect services Through a partnership between delivery company, DHL and Post Office, a new click and collect service is to be tested at Post Offices before rolling out to over 1000 branches across the UK. Online shoppers will now have the option of choosing their local Post Office as a collection point, and DHL will fulfil the delivery aspect, opening up networks for both parties. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/14/post-office-partners-with-dhl-express-to-provide-click-and-collect-services/) US consumer watchdog plans to further regulate the BNPL sector The US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has raised concerns regarding the collection of consumer data and the fast-growing nature of the BNPL sector, which includes companies such as Affirm and Klarna. The CFPB is worried that these companies could be negatively impacting consumers’ financial health and aims to put better regulations in place to ensure consumers are safe and empowered. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/16/us-consumer-watchdog-to-start-regulating-bnpl-sector/) Japanese ecommerce market estimated to grow by 6.9% in 2022 The ecommerce market in Japan, largely dominated by domestic online retailers including Reakuten and Mercari, is set to reach $194.3 billion USD in 2022, after seeing an annual compound growth rate of 5.2% between 2018 and 2021. This makes Japan the fourth leading ecommerce market globally, following China, the US, and the UK. [Read more on Charged Retail](https://www.chargedretail.co.uk/2022/09/13/japan-ecommerce-market-to-grow-by-6-9-in-2022/) Ecommerce brands are spending more on TikTok ads TikTok may soon be surpassing Facebook and Google as the most lucrative advertising channel, with ecommerce brands spending 60% more on TikTok ads in Q2. Facebook is still ahead as the top choice for ecommerce advertisers but only grew by 5.6% from Q1, while Google grew 20.5% in Q2, and Snap declined 10.8% in Q2. [Read more on SearchEngineLand](https://searchengineland.com/ecommerce-brands-spent-60-more-on-tiktok-ads-in-q2-387876)
Sept 13, 2022

Global Ecommerce Weekly News: 13th September 2022

Get up to date with this week's ecommerce headlines from around the globe. --- Amazon News --- Amazon scales back on US warehouse facilities Amazon is shutting down two facilities with 300 employees, discarding plans for 42 facilities, and delaying plans to open a further 21 buildings across the US. The ecommerce giant is scaling back on hiring as well as the expansion of its vast delivery network, as it was left with an excess of space following its rapid expansion during the pandemic. [Read more on Business Insider](https://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-closes-2-facilities-scraps-plans-42-new-buildings-report-2022-9?r=US&IR=T) --- Other Marketplace News --- JD.com is ‘betting’ on ecommerce grocery market Amidst a slowing economy and a decline in ecommerce, Chinese ecommerce giant JD.com has increased its urgency to seek new growth engines. The company is looking to boost its online grocery business through offline partnerships and expansion into lower-tier cities, where it may be able to unleash more consumption power. [Read more on The Star](https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2022/09/08/chinese-ecommerce-giant-jdcom-bets-big-on-online-grocery-lower-tier-markets-amid-slowing-economy) Shopee shuts operations in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico Sea’s ecommerce arm, Shopee, has shut local operations in some LATAM countries but will continue to maintain cross-border operations in a few markets. Latin America is Sea’s most important region following South-east Asia, accounting for close to 19% of its revenue in 2021. The move away from these countries is largely due to increased levels of macro uncertainty and rising interest and inflation rates, and rather putting a focus on its core operations. [Read more on Straits Times](https://www.straitstimes.com/business/companies-markets/seas-shopee-shuts-operations-in-argentina-chile-colombia-mexico-sources) --- Other Ecommerce News --- Instagram scales back in-stream shopping elements Instagram is re-examining its approach as it hasn’t been able to make ‘fetch’ happen. ‘Fetch’ in this context being the online shopping trends which have become all-consuming in China, and what Western social platforms have been hoping to add into their apps to make them more addictive and revenue-generating. Consumers have not been swayed by the latest shopping tools on TikTok and Instagram, leading to Instagram scaling back its in-stream shopping program. [Read more on SocialMediaToday](https://www.socialmediatoday.com/news/instagram-scales-back-in-stream-shopping-elements-as-it-re-examines-its-app/631276/) FedEx Express supporting the growth of cross border ecommerce FedEx express has expanded its international commerce shipping service to four more markets across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (AMEA) region in an effort to support the strong development of ecommerce in this region. Three of the fastest growing markets, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam are leading Southeast Asia’s ecommerce sales, which is set to reach $100 billion by 2023. [Read more on Post & Parcel](https://postandparcel.info/149889/news/e-commerce/fedex-express-supports-the-growth-of-cross-border-e-commerce-within-the-amea-region/) India ramps up hiring as companies prepare for shoppers Ecommerce companies are getting ready for the festive season by rapidly expanding their temporary workforce. As ecommerce in India grows, the country is predicted to have 372 million online shoppers by the end of 2022. The festive season this year, running from October to December, is expected to see a two-fold increase in logistics and delivery alone. During this period, companies are predicted to add 20% more to their existing workforce base, with a 8-10% higher pay scale compared to last year. [Read more on Business Insider India](https://www.businessinsider.in/business/ecommerce/news/the-great-indian-festival-of-hiring-e-commerce-companies-gear-up-for-indias-shoppers/articleshow/94000346.cms)