Country Crock Comfort Food Survey

New study finds American's can't live without their beloved comfort foods -- crowns mashed potatoes as America's favorite.

Despite the low carb diet craze, the vast majority of Americans have not stopped eating the comfort food dishes they love, according to the national Country Crock™ Side Dishes Comfort Food Survey, released today. Country Crock™ Side Dishes conducted the survey to gauge Americans' emotional connection to comfort foods as the winter season approaches.

A whopping 83% of Americans say that a low carb diet (or any diet for that matter) has not deterred them from enjoying their favorite comfort foods. Three in ten, who report eating more comfort foods than they did five years ago, boldly declare that the number one reason is because they just can’t live without them.

Hold the bacon: Mashed Potatoes is the way to go

According to the survey, America's favorite comfort foods include a combination of wholesome and sweet fare. Mashed potatoes beat out meatloaf, cinnamon buns, and casserole to take honors as America’s number one favorite comfort food. Why are mashed potatoes so popular? Mom is the person to thank. One in four respondents (27%) agree that mashed potatoes are the food most reminiscent of mom. In addition, it seems that mashed potatoes have some soothing qualities - nearly a fifth (18%) turn to them when they are most stressed.

"For many Americans, comfort foods trigger memories of childhood and bring us back to a time when someone took care of us," said Brian Wansink, Professor of Marketing and of Nutritional Science at the University of Illinois. “Comfort foods connote a sense of security and warmth that Americans seem to embrace throughout their lives. These feelings tend to override diet trends and therefore the popularity of comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes and macaroni & cheese, never diminishes."

Men vs. Women

When it comes to comfort food, there's no conformity between men and women. More women (39%) than men (24%) describe comfort food as a stress reliever. Furthermore, 53% of women surveyed say they have increased their comfort food consumption because of stress. Women are more inclined to eat comfort foods when they are under stress (36% vs. 19%) while men are more inclined to eat comfort foods to put them in a good mood (37% vs. 27%).

Men and women also differ in specific comfort food preferences. Men tend to gravitate towards warm, hearty foods (one in four males prefers meatloaf as his favorite comfort food), while women instead prefer comfort foods that are sweet (27% of women say they munch on cinnamon buns when they are the most stressed).

Tis' the season for comfort

When the weather cools, Americans are more likely to consume comfort foods. A majority of those surveyed (51%) report that winter is the time of year when they consume the largest amounts of comfort foods. Holidays (29%) are the second busiest season for comfort-food consumption. In addition, many Americans (32%) say they eat comfort foods to put them in a good mood all year round.

Ain't no stopping them

The survey found that Americans are craving comfort foods as much as they are eating them. When asked how often they crave and eat comfort foods, almost half of the respondents (51%) confess to craving comfort foods at least one to three times a week, while 58% say they eat comfort foods just as often. Thirteen percent of Americans declare they crave comfort foods every day, while 11% admit to enjoying a daily dose of comfort foods.

Strong regional preferences

People who live on the coast are more inclined to eat comfort foods when they are under stress. Twice as many Americans from those regions (57% Northeast; 48% West) eat comfort foods when they are stressed than those living in the South or North Central U.S. (24% South; 23% North Central). However, when it comes to mood food, geography depicts strong differences. More Americans from the Northeast and South (22% for each) than the West (14%) and North Central (16%) reach for comfort food to put them in a good mood.

Americans elect most comforting personality

She may be the queen of daytime but she's also the queen of comfort. Sure enough, Americans name talk show queen Oprah Winfrey the number one most comforting personality.

The survey was conducted to introduce the line of COUNTRY CROCK™ fully prepared, chilled side dishes that are ready to heat and serve in five minutes, as part of a well-balanced meal. The new side dishes are available in four popular comfort food recipes including Homestyle Mashed Potatoes, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Elbow Macaroni & Cheese, and Chicken Rice with Herbs and come packaged in decorative country-style containers.

Survey methodology

Data for the Country Crock™ Side Dishes Comfort Food Survey was collected by International Communications Research between October 15-19, 2004 with 1006 interviews conducted. The final results are weighted to the US population of adults age 18+. The margin of error for this sample size is + or - 3.1% at the 95% confidence interval.

Unilever is one of the world's largest consumer products companies with annual sales of approximately $48 billion in 2003. It produces and markets a wide range of foods and home and personal care products. Unilever operates in around 100 countries around the globe and employs approximately 250,000 people.

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