Mayonnaise is having a moment as people eat their meals at home during the pandemic

Mayonnaise is having a moment as people eat their meals at home during the pandemic
Shoshy Ciment/Business Insider
  • Demand for Hellmann's mayonnaise contributed to double-digit growth in Unilever's food sales in the second quarter.
  • Unilever's in-home food and refreshment portfolio grew 17% in the second quarter, while its out-of-home food and refreshment sales declined 42%.
  • The strong sales further highlight the shifting eating trends of Americans, with meals mostly being made and eaten inside.

Mayonnaise is having a moment.

With people eating their meals at home during the coronavirus pandemic, strong demand for Hellmann's mayonnaise contributed to double-digit growth in Unilever's food retail last quarter, the company announced in its second-quarter earnings.

In recent years, the humble sauce has been divisive. Yes, there's the European predilection for dipping french fries in mayo, but its critics have called it "food glue" and "the devil's condiment." In her particularly reflective essay, "How Millenials Killed Mayonnaise," Sandy Hingston bemoans the macaroni salad going untouched at a family barbeque, declaring, "While I wasn't watching, mayo's day had come and gone."
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But it turns out that sales of mayonnaise have been doing rather well lately.

"The hidden jewel in the portfolio has been our in-home food and refreshment portfolio that has grown by 17% in the quarter, as consumers have eaten more soups, used more meal kits, and accompanied their meals with mayonnaise," said Unilever CEO Alan Jope in the company's earnings report.

Recent sales updates like Unilever's drive home a change already felt by many Americans under quarantine: eating in is in. Out-of-home food and refreshment sales declined 42%, due to the closure of restaurants and cafeterias, according Unilever, but increased in-home sales are softening the blow.
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In other words, customers are passing on a meal at their local cafe for a sandwich on the couch.

The disparity is especially apparent in the ice cream market. Unilever owns Ben & Jerry's, Breyer's, and Magnum. Out of home ice cream sales declined by 35%, whereas in home ice cream increased by 26%. Overall, Unilever reported that underlying sales declined 0.1% in the first half of the year, much less than expected in an economy roiled by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Reuters. Unilever's CEO told shareholders he expects demand will rebound when eating out and leisure habits return to normal.
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