Posh crumpets, tahini, celery juice, skewers and pink drinks were among the year’s hottest food and drink trends, according to the Waitrose & Partners Food and Drink Report 2019-20. The seventh annual report was based on consumer research of 2,000 people of all ages – not exclusively Waitrose shoppers.
It revealed a growth in ‘mindful spending’, with UK shoppers paying more attention to their purchases. Half are buying fewer lunches out, takeaways and snacks, and 46% are going to the pub less, it said. But when they do spend they want the results to be special.
“There’s a trend for creating theatre from ordinary things: taking the time to make a proper cup of tea, or to enjoy a really great piece of chocolate cake,” said Stephanie Chafor, partner & head of grocery buying.
Britons are ‘moving towards a simpler existence’
Families are refocusing on the fundamentals, said the report – cooking uncomplicated meals, growing their own food, taking up a traditional hobby and turning their backs on materialism.
More food shoppers are taking shortcuts such as using pouches of rice or grains, using frozen chopped vegetables or herbs, and batch cooking, according to the research.
“We know nearly half of Brits cook weekday evening meals in under 30 minutes and we’re seeing a desire to remove the 'fog' of multiple decisions,” said Chafor. “People are looking for fewer ingredients, fewer steps and fewer decisions, especially mid-week.”
Waitrose managing director Rob Collins said: “Our findings this year point to a move away from materialism, and towards a rise in compassion and simplicity in British lifestyles. It seems that, as the world beyond our front doors becomes increasingly complicated, people are doubling down on the things that really matter. Households are decluttering to focus on the values – and people – that mean the most to them.”
Shoppers want less packaging
Two thirds of people have cleared out or decluttered in recent months and a third of us have focused on organising our kitchen cupboards.
Drivers for this include a desire to scale back packaging, with 9% of consumers claiming that they now take refillable containers to the supermarket for loose produce or deli items.
Brits are spicing things up
A fifth of Britons are eating more spicy food than five years ago, said the report, and 26% of people are replacing putting salt on the table with chilli sauce or flakes.
The research found that Brits’ increased appetite for hot food is strongest among the under-35s, while people aged between 45 and 54 have the hottest palate. Chilli is appearing in products you wouldn’t traditionally expect, such as chocolate and popcorn.
“Chilli is a great way to add extra flavour and interest to food, and people are increasingly using it in place of salt. Chillies also contain a compound that can cause natural ‘feel good’ chemicals to be released by our brains. So our reason for enjoying spice could sometimes be more than just because it’s tasty,” said Moira Howie, partner & nutrition and health manager.
The biggest food trends of 2019
Tahini - A core element of houmous, tahini is made from hulled sesame seeds that have been toasted and ground. It’s now a popular ingredient in its own right, with searches for tahini paste on waitrose.com up more than 700% on last year.
Noodles - Searches for soba noodles on waitrose.com are up 83%, udon noodles searches are up 50% and sales of egg noodles have risen 22%.
Celery juice - Almost a social media star in its own right, celery juice is omnipresent in the hands of influencers. Sales of organic celery at Waitrose & Partners are up 30%, while searches on Pinterest have risen 2,457%.
Posh crumpets - Crumpet sales are up 27%, said Waitrose. Chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi and Marcus Wareing are inspiring consumers with toppings like lobster, cockle butter, or Cheddar and Marmite.
Grains - Shoppers are going with the grain – in particular, sales of amaranth are up 20% while mixed pouches of quinoa, chickpea, bulgur wheat and rice have seen sales rise by 36%.
Luxury frozen food - Shoppers are filling their freezers with cook-at-home croissants and Keralan cod ready-meals as premium frozen food goes mainstream. Waitrose’s new premium range includes King Prawn, Mussel & Clam Tagliatelle and an Italian Slow-Cooked Pork Belly.
Skewers - From street-food trucks to hipster kebab joints, skewered food is at the sharp end of fashion. The trend is easy to replicate at home, using leftover meat and veg from your fridge. Four out of five of the bestselling barbecue meat lines at Waitrose & Partners are kebabs, while sales of metal skewers are up 9%.
Seaweed and more - This year, many consumers have been choosing ingredients from the sea. Delicious in their own right, kelp, algae, samphire and nori all add umami flavour to dishes. Searches for ‘aonori seaweed’ are up 127% on waitrose.com. And ‘seaganism’ – a vegan diet but including sustainable seafood – has been gaining a following.
Sales of vegan ready meals have overtaken their vegetarian counterpart for the first time, said Waitrose. Vegan favourites include mushroom carbonara and paella.
Future food trends
Middle Eastern food at home – Rising sales of sumac, baharat and zaatar show that Britons are cooking increasingly ambitious dishes, according to the report. “It’s no surprise Middle Eastern cuisine is hitting the mainstream,” said Zoe Simons, Partner & senior innovation development chef at Waitrose & Partners. “Already established with foodies, it offers both spice and sweetness.”
Better quality meat or fish - The number of flexitarians in the UK continues to rise: a third of Brits are eating less meat and fish than two years ago, and 32% plan to reduce their consumption even more over the next two years, noted the report. More than a quarter (26%) said they look for better quality meat or fish while limiting how often they buy it. Shoppers are most likely to choose free-range, British meat, with the top factors influencing purchase being sourcing, provenance and welfare standards.
“We’re seeing a more considered approach to meat. Because some people are eating less of it, when they do eat it they want to make it count; they want to really enjoy it. We see this demand for meat produced to high standards continuing to become more pronounced in the years to come,” the research noted.
Using seafood instead of meat -- A trend that started in Australia, it incorporates pickling, fermenting, smoking and ageing, and is finding its way to these shores, observed the report. Cornerstone restaurant in London’s Hackney Wick offers salmon pastrami and citrus-cured brill, while dishes elsewhere include octopus salami, swordfish ham and shellfish sausages. It’s likely to become even more popular as chefs and enthusiastic cooks begin to add value to fish in ways they’ve done with meat for many years.
“In recent years, we’ve seen UK chefs turning out classic meat-based charcuterie to rival anything produced on the Continent,” said Amber Dalton, editor of The Good Food Guide, “so it makes total sense that they’d look to the sea’s bounty to create intriguing new dishes using time-honoured preserving techniques.”
Forget cheese, vegans’ miss milk chocolate most!
Vegans crave vegan versions of their favourite milk chocolate treats the most, according to a separate survey carried out by Veganuary, a global organisation encouraging people to try vegan in January and the rest of the year.
When given a choice of eight options, including several chocolatey treats and some cheesy snacks, and asked which one they’d most like to veganise, Veganuary supporters overwhelming chose Cadbury’s Dairy Milk (28% of votes) followed by Mars Bar (14% of votes) and Chocolate Hobnobs (12% of votes). The highest rated cheesy item was Walker’s cheese and onion crisps with 10% of votes followed by cottage cheese on 9% of votes. Babybel came last with only 7% of votes.
According to Toni Vernelli, Head of Communications at Veganuary, “These results should be a stark wake up call to companies like Cadbury’s, Mars and McVities which are missing out on a huge potential market of sweet-toothed vegans! With so many dairy-free milks, creams and spreads available, making vegan versions of their bestselling chocolate treats should be easy as pie.”