COVID Comfort: Food Advertising, Family, and Unity During a Pandemic

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



As the COVID-19 virus swept through state by state and nation by nation, US Americans were forced into quarantine. With daily lives disrupted and eating outside of homes drastically curtailed, food producers increased their advertising to remind consumers about the ways in which they offered unity, service, and family ties as evidenced by lines from those commercials mentioned previously, both of which aired during the COVID-19 lockdown. Not only were these advertisements designed to promote products as most are, but they were also used to offer hope to frightened U.S. Americans fearful of doing even the most routine activities such as grocery shopping or eating in restaurants. Studying food advertisements during this time reveals “deep-rooted beliefs and values that characterize a culture and endorse a particular worldview” (Kelso 120). As Kelso points out, “the media in general, through the messages and themes they present, tend to convey dominant ideology” that “contribute to symbolically reinforcing our current way of life” and “indirectly function[ing] as an educational force” (122).

The majority of COVID-19 research related to food focuses on food consumption changes during the pandemic, most with the goal of determining the healthiness of these changes. There also exists a body of advertising research focusing on the themes, images, and content of advertisements during the COVID19 pandemic. Currently, however, there is little research about the themes used in food advertisements broadcast during the COVID-19 pandemic, thus leaving a void in not only this food advertising research but also in the understanding of the cultural ideology during this unprecedented time in history.

The current study will help fill the void in COVID-19 pandemic-related research by analyzing twelve food advertisements that were broadcast during the pandemic to determine the themes present in each. This study will draw upon the thematic analysis process outlined by Herzog and colleagues, based on Braun and Clarke’s guide (Herzog et al. 385-401). In conjunction with this, the use of textual analysis combined with case study methodology as outlined by Beetham in her study of women’s magazines will also be used.