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From baking banana bread and sourdough bread to panic buying kilos of pasta, the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic were filled with new and quickly evolving consumer trends, which disrupted the global supply chain and challenged trendmakers’ assumptions. More than a year on from the first lockdown order, consumer behaviour has settled somewhat, allowing the experts to predict which trends will stay post-Covid and which were only a flash in the pan.
Whether a result of self-isolation, long queues outside of supermarkets, or simply convenience, many people have been doing their food shopping online during the pandemic. Whilst some shoppers may already have taken advantage of online services in the past, for others it was a first-time occurrence that no doubt became a habit during lockdown. For independent retailers, these online services, whether click-and-collect or home delivery, have been vital lifelines, and as footfall in shops dwindled, online sales skyrocketed as fewer customers left their homes to visit stores in person.
Whilst lockdown in the UK is slowly being lifted, social distancing measures are still in place, meaning many Brits are likely to continue logging into online shops to fill up their carts. What’s more, with many small retailers having introduced online services during the pandemic, and new platforms now offering access to several retailers and brands in one place, the convenience could prove too good to resist for shoppers in the near future.
Naturally, the closure of restaurants and cafés across the country meant Brits have been cooking at home more often. Many retailers and brands have remarked on how many people are now cooking proper meals from scratch as eating habits change. Brits seem to be experimenting with new dishes, cooking with the kids, and even joining in with friends and family for virtual dinner parties and bake-offs. Although many people will no doubt be eager to get out to their favourite restaurant, pub or café when permitted, it seems people have come to appreciate the value of a nutritious meal enjoyed at home with friends and family.
Baking at home has also skyrocketed during the coronavirus lockdown, and is likely to continue, so we don’t expect to see the high demand for flour dwindle any time soon. For retailers, this could mean expanding storecupboard ranges, promoting essential ingredient ranges, or even introducing recipe boxes or meal kits as a way of tapping into the trend and engaging with customers through their newfound love for cooking. And with summer fast approaching, it’s an ideal opportunity to promote seasonal hero ingredients and market products through home-cooked recipe ideas.
One topic that’s certainly been at the forefront of the coronavirus pandemic is our relationship with food, and the direct correlation between food and our health. It arguably began with the panic-buying that preceded lockdown, which resulted in supermarkets and small retailers struggling to restock shelves fast enough to keep up with demand. After measures were later put in place restricting the number of items shoppers could add to their trolley, it perhaps led many people to appreciate what they could get their hands on, to be more creative with food, and to make their ingredients and produce last longer.
As a result, we’re seeing people seek out better quality ingredients, and less food is being wasted. People are also homing in on the healthy food trend, getting more active and making concerted efforts to consume nutritious food. What’s more, reports are predicting that with people’s increasing focus on health, functional foods that actively contribute to better health, such as boosting immunity, are set to continue growing in popularity.
But it’s not only about the quality of ingredients being used; Brits are also keen for their quality of life and the environment to improve. According to the latest GDP figures, Brits want to see more emphasis placed on health and wellbeing rather than the economy, in an effort to improve people’s quality of life. It’s not surprising given that the pandemic has no doubt shifted priorities as people have come to spend more quality time with friends and family, and appreciate nature. Overall, this could lead to a rise in organic, vegan and plant based food products, as well as increased awareness of the environmental impact of foods, from production to packaging.
There’s been an overwhelming sense of community amidst the difficult times that this global pandemic has brought with it. What that’s translated to for the food and drink industry is a rise in consumers looking to support local businesses, smaller brands and independent retailers that perhaps need their business now more than ever. SMEs have noted and been grateful for the repeat business, positive feedback and kind messages from new and existing customers in their community. Even visual platform Pinterest has seen a surge in searches as the trend for #SupportSmall continues to grow.
Whilst some retailers and fine food brands are wary of new customers heading back to bigger businesses once the pandemic is over, surveys are already showing that Brits don’t actually want life to revert back to how it was pre-lockdown. As people were made to step back, re-evaluate, and appreciate the little things, supporting local companies seems to be part of this trend. If SMEs can continue to offer customers a more personalised experience that comes with shopping local, this is one trend that could endure.
It may seem counterintuitive considering people’s eagerness to be healthy. And whilst some people have admitted to reducing their alcohol intake in line with their new health goals, online alcohol sales have actually risen. It’s likely the result of increased socialising online, with virtual pub quizzes, happy hours, dinner parties and cocktail evenings becoming increasingly popular and boosting alcohol consumption.
According to new research from OnePoll on behalf of John Lewis and Waitrose, 25% of people who drink have said they’ve been drinking more since lockdown. What’s more, tequila sales have soared 175% during lockdown, with gin and rum also popular, and liqueurs up 78% as consumers try new cocktails. With pubs and bars closed, brands like NIO have been stepping in to quench people’s thirst. The new brand delivers bar-quality pre-made cocktails direct to customers’ doors, and has seen a surge in sales in light of the current climate. With pub culture embedded in British society, we don’t expect bars and other outlets to be empty when they eventually open their doors, however we may expect to see online sales of alcohol continue should more people opt to host house parties or order cocktails to their doorstep in favour of going out.