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The vaccination programme is underway and lockdown restrictions are easing, and optimism is rising for a summer of Covid-safe reunions between families and friends - and nothing says summer garden party like an array of the finest foods on the market.
We dive into the trends that retailers and wholesalers should take note of and stock ahead of the warmer months.
“Nothing brings people together like a good old picnic,” says Hannah McCollum, founder of dip brand ChicP. As restrictions from the Covid-19 pandemic ease, sharing food is likely to go down well with guests, so a well-stocked selection of grazing platter foods - such as quality crackers, crisps, cheese, dips and spreads, as well as seasonal fruit and vegetables, will be key.
Thanks to Covid, sharing bowls of snacks may be a thing of the past. Consumers will likely be on the hunt for options that are easy to serve and transport. “Snacks that can be popped in a picnic bag, backpack or pocket and enjoyed on the go are ideal,” says Matt Hunt, founder of olive brand OLOVES. “We’re seeing an uplift in sales for OLOVES as they come in single-serve pouches and don’t need to be kept in the fridge.”
Over the past year, data from Kantar has shown that more and more Brits have visited independent retail butchers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only are more people visiting – 630,000 more households compared to the previous year – but they’re also spending nearly 50% more per shopping trip compared to other retailers when purchasing meat. The most popular options on the menu were chops, roasting joints and sausages.
This spells good news for barbecue fans. 2020 was a bumper year for garden barbecues, but 2021 could even exceed this. Chef Mark Greenaway says, “I feel we are going to embrace BBQ far more this year than ever. The opportunity to gather and enjoy amazing weather and food with friends and loved ones is something we haven’t been able to do for so long and something personally I feel everyone will be out doing.” He believes American-style options will take off, with a focus on “long, slow smoking and cooking processes”, meaning that cheaper, lesser-used cuts could be in demand.
However, when it comes to catering for your vegetarian and vegan customers, put away the bland veggie burger and try venturing into new territory. Benedict Meade, founder of Tempeh Meades, believes his product is ready for a booming year in the plant-based food crowd.
“Tempeh is made by forming cooked soya beans into a block and adding a culture to initiate a fermentation process. The end product has a firm texture, a nutty taste and is highly valued for the protein and fibre content, as well as being packed full of vitamins and minerals. It works really well on a BBQ - simply marinade slices or chunks of tempeh for a few hours in a sauce of your choice and chuck on the BBQ,” he says. “Tempeh is a great healthy alternative to a burger and tempeh ‘ribs’ are set to be the plant-based BBQ trend of summer 2021.”
The continued focus on health credentials will be another trend for retailers to watch out for. “We’ve seen a real move towards balanced, healthy food that makes people feel good when it’s served,” Mike Hardman, marketing manager at Alliance Online tells Speciality Food. “I think people are just looking for a sense of comfort and a feeling that they’re eating something nourishing, so expect them to be shopping for quality ingredients that they can easily throw together after a tough day, such as deli foods, fruits, and charcuterie,” he says.
Consumers will be drawn to products that communicate the health advantages that they deliver, Mike says. OLOVES’ Matt agrees: “As we move out of lockdown and into the warmer weather, people will be keen to eat healthier and pay attention to the snacks they are choosing. Low-calorie, natural and low-fat options will make popular choices this summer.”
“People are now so much more aware of what they should be eating,” adds Sean Longden of Rollagranola. Shoppers today are getting in the habit of checking ingredient labels, and they’re keen to choose food products with labels they can understand – the simpler, the better.
When stocking their shelves, retailers shouldn’t forget about the most important meal of the day. Breakfast saw renewed attention during the pandemic, with more Brits having the time to prepare a real meal rather than sticking to toast on the go.
With staycationers in mind, Rollagranola’s Sean says premium ‘treating’ options will be big this year. On holiday, he says, while lunches and dinners will likely be spent in restaurants and pubs (Covid rules permitting), when it comes to breakfast “many people will want to treat themselves to something they wouldn’t normally have – this could be some nutty granola like ours or it could be a cooked breakfast and anything in between – but usually people will look to buy something as a treat on holiday and so won’t go for the budget options. This is where independent shops can really shine.”
While consumers will be enjoying themselves this summer after a tough year, they will still be sticking to their high standards when it comes to sustainability credentials. “Consumers are certainly looking out to support and purchase from sustainable focused brands,” says Hannah from ChicP, which uses surplus vegetables bound for the bin for its dips.
“More people realise how important it is to be buying products that are good for the environment,” Hannah says. “With the huge threat of climate change, and food waste being one of the key contributors, now more than ever is the time for everyone to make small (and large) changes, which will all make a difference.”
By keeping these six trends in mind, fine food retailers will ensure this summer is one to remember.
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