At the end of 2019, we released our 2020/21 Stir it up Trend Guide which looked at how our overall environment is changing, the key shifts in the way consumers are behaving and how all of this impacts the foodservice marketplace.

Little did we know that 2020 was going to be a very turbulent, different year from what anyone could have expected. Here, we have taken a look back at the key trends we highlighted as the ones to watch and how they have manifested in different ways over the past year.

1 Children of the revolution

Whether it’s to stop the extinction of certain species, the demand for a better lifestyle or increased opportunity and equality, the younger generation has found their voice and realised its their futures that are greatly affected by these elements and that they want to fight back.

For caterers, the ‘so what?’ of this trend is how these behaviours and beliefs directly affect the way the younger generations make decisions about what to purchase, eat in school and choosing which establishments to eat in and support.

The global pandemic has brought with it a stark awareness of how vulnerable we are to nature which has inadvertently highlighted the concerns around climate change.

Whether accelerated by the focus on our environment or a greater consideration of our health, sales of plant-based and specifically vegan products during and following lockdown have skyrocketed. From a completely vegan diet to the more popular ‘flexitarian’ approach, this is not a trend just specific to the younger generations – although there is a positive trend with Gen Z and Millennial consumers.

Insight tells us that the Gen Z and Millennial generations are generally less anxious about leaving their homes and visiting shops and eating out. This gives you a huge opportunity to target these particular consumer groups to drive footfall.

  • It is, of course, essential to ensure that you provide clear messages around your social distancing and hygiene measures. However, it is easy for those messages to be all consuming whereas the key messages around packaging use, ethical and environmental policies should not be forgotten.
  • Ensure you have a great selection of plant-based dishes within your menus with options for both vegetarian and vegan consumers.
  • This consumer group is very active on social media and, as we highlighted, are not afraid to use their voice whether that be positively or negatively. Word of mouth is still the fourth most important influence when deciding where to eat and positive social media posts about your establishment are essential too – its free PR! Encourage this with a specific hashtag for customers to utilise on social media, have clear call out messages within your table set up with a playful, colourful environment suited to taking social media activity.

2 Sustain, Regain & Reconnect

This trend looked at economic, environmental and social sustainability. We recommended auditing food waste within your businesses and looking where certain waste products could be reduced or repurposed elsewhere
within your menu or business. Another element was to raise awareness of how your business supports its staff and the local environment for example through the support of local social enterprises.

Consumers have been able to physically see the food waste they create as families have been at home together for such a long period of time, this has helped to increase the awareness of the importance of recycling and working to reduce food waste. Although this was more of a consumer focus within the home, the increased awareness is encouraging consumers to make more considered choices when eating out of home too.

Waste Not, Want Not Whether it’s noseto-tail food production or reviewing portion sizes within your menu, considering your food waste as a business and how you can make the full use of all the produce you purchase is more important now than ever – both from a waste reduction and financial perspective.

3 Tribe

The trend looked at the loss of sense of community within our local areas including the loss of so many pubs that have acted as community hubs for years, which also greatly impacts the local area.

For hospitality and catering we highlighted key trends around communal dining, tapping into online ‘tribes’ or communities and the huge trend of more primitive methods such as fire cooking.

Isolation has become synonymous with 2020, the very thing that we had highlighted as an issue in terms of loneliness within our environment became the only way to keep us safe.

However, in dark times our true community spirit has truly shone through. We couldn’t visit our family and friends, but our streets were lined with millions of people across the UK and Ireland clapping to show thanks to
the key workers supporting our country throughout the pandemic. This national sense of pride and appreciation was also seen on a regional and local scale with neighbours delivering food and other essential supplies to
the vulnerable people in their area, food banks, charities and foodservice businesses working extremely hard to provide care packages to those who needed it the most.

Community Spirit – Whether it’s sharing details of how your business has helped the local community or playing to your customers sense of wanting to support local businesses – ensure you consider this element within your marketing communications.

Collaboration – Ask your customers for feedback and what they would like to see when eating out-of-home. Encouraging customers to leave positive reviews online is essential so that potential customers see these reviews which help to reassure them that the experience, quality of offer and, importantly, hygiene practices are great.

4 A Change of Pace

This trend looked at how increasingly busy our lives have become and the
negative impact this has upon or health and wellbeing.

We highlighted key trends such as the appreciation for traditional, time honoured food production practices as well as how foodservice operators across all sectors can focus upon their pupil, residents or customers mental health.

One key impact of the pandemic is that there are a huge proportion of consumers working from home, some for the foreseeable and others permanently as businesses are considering a much more flexible approach.

Being faced with a global health crisis has also made consumers very aware the impact of what they consume has upon their mental and physical health.

Providing an antidote to WFH – Invite those working from home to take a break from their own four walls with individual tables, the availability of plug sockets and free wi-fi. Include a variety of offers including unlimited tea and coffee, lunch options and even an alcoholic beverage to end the day.

Hyper-awareness of Health
– Using your menu or marketing communications to pull out the specific dishes or ingredients that can help customers to take care of themselves
is a great tool to utilise right now.

In 2021 there will be huge shifts in legislation and focus upon varying elements of our health as a nation.

Allergy Awareness – As of October 2021, Natasha’s Law will be introduced
to protect allergy suffers and give them confidence in the food they buy. Any business based in England must clearly label all foods packed and produced on their premises with a complete list of ingredients.

Obesity Crisis – In July 2020 a new obesity strategy was unveiled in recognition of the great impact our food choices are having on the health of our citizens and the impact of this on the NHS. With mention of calorific content of dishes and beverages to be added to menus in the out-of-home environment, this is an area to consider within your business to get ahead of the curve.

5 An Alternative Reality

This trend is focused around consumers need for the perfect antidote to modern life, digital burn-out and a future of political and social uncertainty.

From a hospitality and catering perspective we could see trends of off-the-grid getaways, immersive dining experiences and in the care sector using sensory experiences to provide reminiscence therapy to residents suffering from dementia.

We went from talking about immersive dining experiences to hospitality caterers trying to bring the experience of restaurant quality food and the dining experience into the homes of their customers using virtual experiences and bespoke meal kits.

It’s all about the Experience – What experience do you provide to your
customers that they can’t recreate at home? Ensure you call this out at every opportunity whether its your signature dishes, environment or even playing to the frustration some consumers may have of increased cooking at home.

Feeling Nostalgic – In difficult times, it’s no surprise that we become nostalgic about past times of ‘normalcy’ and happy memories. Comforting dishes and nostalgic flavours are a sure way to win with consumers, students or residents whether it’s a playful twist on a fruit-filled dessert in a school or a modern take on a classic cocktail within a hospitality venue’s beverage menu.

WHAT WILL 2021 BRING? Watch this space, we will be bringing you the latest insight and data in our 2021 Trends and Consumer Behaviour special feature in January/February 2021 issue of Stir it up.