Sainsbury’s reveals the foods we were all buying last year

Banana bread, sourdough starters and restaurant meal kits – 2020’s food habits were largely based on lockdown baking that would keep us busy, use up on-the-turn fruit and make us feel like we were dining at our favourite restaurants again. But as the nation gradually opened up in 2021, what we put in our shopping baskets shifted once again.

Using data from 17.5 million Nectar customers, Sainsbury’s has released its end of year report for 2021 to show that our grocery shops started to revolve around viral TikTok videos, the return to work and football.

Sainsbury's shopping
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Kicking off the year with Veganuary, the supermarket reported 16 per cent more customers bought meat-alternative products in 2021 than the previous year – the most popular being plant-based sausages and tofu.

READ MORE: The best vegan cookbooks

In February, it was all about the TikTok-famous baked feta pasta recipe, which caused sales of feta cheese to rise by 62 per cent at Sainsbury’s. As restrictions began to lift in May, workers gradually returned to the office, so it’s no surprise to see sandwich sales were up 160 per cent. Meanwhile, salads, sushi and snacking products shot up by 177 per cent.

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Baked feta pasta. Image: Ellis Parrinder

It appears the nation became more health-conscious last year, too. 7.7 million bunches of bananas were bought from Sainsbury’s in June, and 375 million portions of carrots were bought in the whole year. In fact, a total of 6 billion portions of fruit and vegetables were sold in 2021.

Soon after, even those of us who usually don’t care about football geared up to watch England’s stellar performance in the Euros final on 11 July. Customers ensured they had enough snacks to see them through the match – 750,000 bags of crisps were sold in Sainsbury’s across the UK on that day alone.

football and crisps
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When it came to December, mince pies reigned supreme as one of the most popular Christmas foods – we bought 3.3 million boxes of the seasonal staple. Love them or hate them, 2.1 million bags of Brussels sprouts were also purchased. Continuing the trend for flexitarianism and plant-based diets, sales of meat-alternative Christmas options were up 37 per cent.

But what were the most popular foods where you’re from? The Sainsbury’s report showed that those in Wales, the North West and the West Midlands were the biggest fans of cream cakes, as these areas saw the most sales of the sweet treat.

The South West of the country had the biggest fans of speciality cheeses, and the North East had the highest sales of national newspapers. Bread was a bestseller for the East of England, while true to form, the South East were buying pasties, pies and pastries. Scotland saw the most sales of fizzy drinks.

READ MORE: These are the top recipes of 2021 according to Google