Six Search Trends Nobody Expected During COVID-19

Insights | 24/03/2021 | Written by Gabriella Mascia

As a content strategist, it’s my job to keep an eye on the trends making their way into the Google search bar, and to understand the consumer behaviours and cultural shifts causing them. In piecing these stories together, we can help brands to adapt to changes within their industries, and provide helpful solutions to their customers. It’s what we offer to many clients as part of our assurance framework.

With this week marking one year since the first UK lockdown, I thought it would be interesting to share some of the more unexpected Google search trends that I’ve spotted throughout the pandemic, caused directly or indirectly by lockdown —  including the story of how coronavirus made chocolate milk cool again.

The ‘food TikTok’ effect: Charcuterie boards & chocolate milk

While early-pandemic TikTok gave us Tiger King dance challenges and Gavin and Stacey memes, later lockdowns saw the platform develop as a space for culinary inspiration and Gen Z disenchantment. Amongst the many gastronomical TikTok moments we’ve seen throughout the pandemic (with honourable mentions going to Little Moons mochi and the tortilla wrap hack), I’ve highlighted two in particular that managed to migrate outside of the platform, and into the Google search bar: charcuterie boards and chocolate ‘choccy’ milk. And there’s a very good reason why.

Charcuterie boards
While ‘food TikTok’ has existed long-before COVID, lockdowns forced us all to get a little more creative with our cooking. Whether it’s for an anniversary night-in or just to mix-up your Friday evening, charcuterie boards provided an elevated and hands-on way to mark an occasion (it’s essentially posh meats, cheese and crackers.) And while TikTok didn’t invent charcuterie (let’s be clear, the French did) the pandemic pressure-cooker that made us all try new past-times definitely helped to catapult it into popularity:

Chocolate ‘choccy’ milk
This is a weird one, but stay with me because it gets interesting. The ‘choccy milk’ meme emerged on TikTok in late 2020 out of a collective feeling of disappointment amongst Gen Z. Spending a significant chunk of their early-adult life in lockdown, Gen Z-ers looked back on a simpler time, when all worries could be solved, it seemed, with a sip of chocolate milk. Hence the slogan: ‘choccy milk make the pain go away’. On the platform then, choccy milk became synonymous with Gen Z FOMO, as well as feelings of childhood nostalgia. We even saw RyanAir jumping on the bandwagon:

@ryanair

admin popping a chocky milk, but only as a treat #fyp #foryou #foryoupage #ryanair #chockymilk

♬ original sound – Wyatt

Lucky for Nestle however, this nostalgic association caught-on, and led to a staggering increase in Google searches (and I’d argue sales) for chocolate milk:

And that’s the story of how coronavirus made chocolate milk cool again. If you’re interested in more TikTok content, our Social Lead Danielle has written about how brands can make better use of the platform right here.

The self-care effect: Sunset & skincare

Taking time to reset is always important — but even more so during a global pandemic. One way that people were choosing to unwind over the past year was by indulging in skincare, dedicating more time and money to their daily routines than previous years. We also saw people appreciating one of the simpler things nature has to offer. 2020 saw more searches than 2019 for ‘sunset near me’:

Check out our Beauty and Personal Care Report for more.

The ‘Barnard Castle’ effect: Blue light glasses

While this one doesn’t directly relate to the unspeakable events at Barnard Castle last May, it definitely does relate to eyesight. Lockdowns have come with their challenges, but one thing we can all agree on is that our bodies are certainly feeling the effect — whether it’s due to a lack of sleep, exercise, or staring at digital screens for long periods while working from home.

Well it seems that many may think they have found a solution to the latter, in the form of blue light glasses. While there is no clinical link to COVID-19, Google searches for “blue light glasses” grew by 170% from March 2020 to April 2020 (and rising) due to the increase in people working from home: 


While there is little-to-no research to prove that blue light blocking glasses actually protect your eyesight, it’s clear that people were looking for a more long-term solution to computer eye strain. If you’re interested, you can learn more about our work in this area throughout the pandemic, through our partnership with Specsavers.

The Netflix effect: Chess boards & corsets

Sometimes Netflix drops content at just the right time — and Bridgerton and The Queen’s Gambit are perfect examples of this. At a time when we’re all shut inside, looking for new ways to pass the time, it’s no surprise that a hit series about an elusive, ingenius chess champion would have us all taking-up the hobby too. Or that a period drama full of seduction and scandal would inspire many to live-out their fantasy in full Regency regalia:

Sure, Netflix will always have its influence on popular culture without the catalyst of a global pandemic. But to this extent? I’d argue not.

The Boris effect: #ScotchEggGate

This one won’t surprise many now, but I think it’s fair to say nobody saw this one coming — least of all, Boris. We’ll all remember that, as the Government set out its guidelines to ease UK Lockdown 2, part of its ruling was that punters could only order an alcoholic drink at a pub if it was accompanied with a “substantial meal”. Naturally, this had many bars and pubs getting a little creative with the rules, with one pub offering a scotch egg as a substantial meal. Hence, #ScotchEggGate:  

The cabin-fever effect: Volunteering & allyship

One thing I love about (most) humans is our unending desire for connection. It’s almost ironic to think that, at a time when we’re all physically confined to our homes, we’d still seek out methods to connect with and support others.

Socially and politically, we’ve seen so much division. But, at the same time, union. From Black Lives Matter and anti-racism protests in the summer, to more recent movements in solidarity with Sarah Everard and #StopAsianHate campaigns. It perhaps comes as no surprise then, that online searches for ‘volunteering’ and ‘allyship’ were higher in 2020 than 2019:

We’ll always find means and reasons to connect as human beings, but I can’t help but wonder whether our inability to connect physically motivated us all the more to come together politically. Due to the pandemic, human connection is perhaps more powerful than ever before.

How many of these trends did you come across in the last year? There’s plenty more where these came from too. If you’re interested in how search listening could help your brand connect with customers, get in touch with our team — we’d love to hear from you.  

Back to more insight

Interested in our services?
We’d love to work with you.