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‘Downsize food portions,’ say consumers

The pandemic has changed the amounts Americans want to eat, finds a new study from Georgetown University.
Americans are opting for smaller portion sizes post-pandemic to achieve health and wellness goals. / Image via Shutterstock

Less is more when it comes to food portion sizes, according to a 2022 study from Georgetown University and the Natural Marketing Institute.

The university’s Portion Balance Coalition compared the research's results with those from a pre-pandemic 2019 survey. The new numbers from the 2022 Portion Balance Attitude and Action Tracking study show that COVID changed the way consumers want to eat—58% are opting for smaller portions to promote health and well-being.  

The findings focus on food buying habits at retail, with 45% of respondents purchasing smaller packages of food, up from 38% in 2019. But the data also reveals that 62% want restaurants to offer standard portion sizes, compared to 58% in 2019, and 63% like it when restaurants include calorie counts on menu items.

“The food industry should continue to use portion control sizing as it gives consumers enjoyment without the guilt,” Hank Cardello, chair of Georgetown University’s Portion Balance Coalition, said in a statement. “We want consumers to feel empowered to create demand and acceptance for healthier food portions while motivating the industry to respond to this demand.”

While nutrition and health are key to the mission of the Portion Balance Coalition, sustainability also plays a major part. The Coalition is under the umbrella of the Business for Impact initiative at the university’s McDonough School of Business, which was founded on the belief that companies can be a powerful force for good. “Our aspiration is that Georgetown-educated leaders will be renowned for managing the triple bottom line—people, planet, and profit,” according to the statement.

The Portion Balance Coalition worked with Natural Marketing Institute to conduct the study, surveying 1,300 Americans over the age of 18 in late 2022. The goal of the research was to learn whether consumers had made portion-specific behavior changes post-COVID.