Oct. 8, 2021, 7:58 a.m. EDT

Weight gain during COVID-19, especially among younger consumers, is driving changes in the way Americans eat and dress

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Tonya Garcia

Many Americans added the dreaded “COVID-19 pounds” or more during the pandemic, which could have a long-lasting impact on food companies, health and wellness businesses, and apparel brands and retailers, according to Barclays.

The bank’s credit analysts cite data sources showing an average American weight gain of 1.5 to 2 pounds per month during the lockdown with younger consumers, including millennials, gaining more than Gen X and boomers. Weight gain has also skewed higher for those who were under lockdown restrictions for a longer period of time.

Many companies have said they expect that certain dining habits developed during COVID will stick around once the pandemic is over, such as eating at home .

Read: ‘The Covid 15?’ If only — this is how much weight the average person actually gained during the pandemic

“In 2018, if we had proposed that Millennial and Generation Z demographics would have a preference for higher caloric packaged food and would gain a significant amount of weight, it would not have been taken seriously,” analysts led by Hale Holden wrote.

“A reversion to a preference for healthier fresh food could have implications for allthe center-of-store manufacturers that got a ‘second lease on life’ in the past 18 months.”

Before the pandemic, few consumers had a taste for food and drink with high sugar content.

As the effort to lose those COVID pounds gets under way, Barclays says sugar could become an ESG (environmental, social and governance) cause on par with eco-issues like carbon footprint.

“While we are starting to see some shifts in areas like sugar content, we have not seen a sharp acceleration in terms of level of adoption, nor have we seen increased sensitivity in holding exposed names,” analysts said.

“But as ESG sensitivities develop, we think this will increasingly become a greaterfocus.”

Barclays rates investment-grade bonds issued by General Mills Inc /zigman2/quotes/206659526/composite GIS -1.25% , Conagra Brands Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200394144/composite CAG -1.01% , and Mondelez International /zigman2/quotes/201769764/composite MDLZ -2.05% at underweight.

Analysts rate WW International’s /zigman2/quotes/200896816/composite WW +1.35% high-yield secured bonds that mature in 2029 at overweight.

New bodies and changing fashion trends will benefit some fashion companies, like Levi Strauss & Co. LEVI which has talked about how the popularity of looser denim styles will benefit that company after years of skinny jeans.

Analysts expected heightened demand as mobility improved and people headed back to work, events and on vacation. Consumers are also pushing for more size inclusivity, which is driving access to a wider range of sizes, for instance, at Gap Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206554267/composite GPS +0.35% brand Old Navy . Torrid Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202460173/composite CURV -2.05% , a plus-size retailer, was also among the many IPOs that have taken place this year.

Shoppers want to update their closets, or need to because of a change in clothing size, though the supply chain could put a damper on that impulse to spend.

Also: Walmart, Target, Home Depot and other large retailers are chartering ships to bypass supply chain problems. Will the strategy save Christmas?

See: A pandemic wardrobe purge is sweeping across the country as normal life resumes

“While it is difficult to predict what will change the course of apparel demand, we think the 2021 holiday sales period could represent a meaningful increase in demand trends,” the report said.

And with so many people getting rid of clothing they can no longer wear, or no longer want to wear, secondhand businesses like ThredUp Inc. /zigman2/quotes/225646107/composite TDUP -0.03% should see benefits.

Barclays has overweight ratings on Nordstrom Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/203902116/composite JWN -0.51% high-yield bonds that mature in 2024, 2027, 2028, 2030 and 2031, an overweight rating on Macy’s Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/201854387/composite M -0.47% high-yield bonds that mature in 2029 and overweight ratings on Gap’s high-yield bonds due 2029 and 2031

The SPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond ETF /zigman2/quotes/202941311/composite JNK -0.13% and iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF /zigman2/quotes/204471305/composite HYG -0.13% have slipped 0.3% for the year to date. The Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund /zigman2/quotes/200844504/composite XLY -0.32% has gained 14.1%. And the benchmark S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.09% is up 17.1% for the period.

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Dec. 8, 2021 11:41a
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Dec. 8, 2021 11:42a
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US : U.S.: NYSE
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Dec. 8, 2021 11:42a
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Dec. 8, 2021 11:41a
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Dec. 8, 2021 11:42a
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US : S&P US
4,682.65
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Volume: 825.72M
Dec. 8, 2021 11:42a
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