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Consumer Eating Habits: Comfort Foods

Across all demographics, consumers are willing to indulge in comfort food very frequently, and for almost any occasion, special or otherwise. Most surprisingly, when choosing their comfort foods, consumers are far more driven by practical factors like taste than emotional factors like nostalgia. Comfort food, as we discover, isn't sacred or lavish; it's simple, cheap, often store-bought, and delicious. Indulging in comfort food is more often an immediate pleasure, instead of a journey into the past. Consumers' happy place, it turns out, lies squarely in their taste buds.

Most consumers weave their comfort foods into at least one meal a week, usually for dinner or as a late-night snack. Some of the main drivers of consuming comfort foods are stress, feeling tired and not willing to cook, or when consumers feel lonely. However, what are these comfort foods and why are they important?

The Research

Datassential field of research among 756 US consumers completed in January 2023 found that nearly 60% of consumers would rather grab a quick snack than a full meal, with over half being fine with takeout instead of a home-cooked meal.

In the realm of comfort foods, the report shows that taste and practicality triumph over nostalgia or emotional attachments. Among the study, the top 3 qualities consumers look for in comfort food are

  • Delicious taste
  • Cheap/affordable
  • Easily accessible

We’ve ironed out what these types of foods are, but let’s allow the data to pinpoint some dishes. Within the category of meals & dishes, here are the top 5 comfort foods consumers crave.

  • Pizza (55%)
  • French Fries (45%)
  • Burgers (44%)
  • Pasta (39%)
  • Chicken Nuggets (38%)

Do any of these foods create a mouth-watering feel? To most of us, they probably do! However, with most comfort foods comes guilt. We can see over 60% of consumers who indulge in their comfort foods feel guilty afterward. To balance this out, more than 80% of those usually follow the next meal with something healthy or exercise harder the next day.

With this in mind, we know comfort foods are here to stay as new recipes, snacks, and trends spark our experimental taste buds. Optimizing menus and recipe ideas to include comfort food options is also a way to allow guests to feel more comfortable or ‘at home’ in a dining setting. The data shows consumers pay the trade-off with indulgence in comfort foods they love with additional exercise or dietary adjustments to follow.

For recipe ideas to make your favorite comfort food, like a Pink Sauce Pizza or a Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onions, visit us at

Content courtesy of Unilever Foodsolutions

Source: Datassentials Comfort Food Defined January 2023, Datassential fielded this wave of research in January 2023 with 756 US consumers