More snacking, more drinking, less waste and more experimentation with unusual foods: Report reveals the significant shifts in customer behaviour

By Oliver Morrison contact

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/ake1150jsb
Image: Getty/ake1150jsb

Related tags: Waitrose, snacking, Restaurant, Online grocery, Cocktails

Meal planning, snacking and interest in exotic foods are consumer trends that have all risen during the UK’s national lockdown, according to a John Lewis and Waitrose Report.

The report, based on research of 2,000 UK adults, combined with sales data and online searches from the two upmarket retailers, reveals how the nation has eaten and shopped since lockdown was enforced on 24 March.

Half of respondents said they had worked harder to use store cupboard ingredients and not waste food during the period (Waitrose saw online searches for soup recipes up 51%); 45% said they had eaten differently, with 38% admitting to snacking more, and 19% stating they were sitting at the table together for more meals. Over 30% of those surveyed said they had been more organised, making lists and meal planning; 26% said they were cooking more unusual meals. Over a third (36%) said they were spending longer cooking meals than usual, with comfort foods particularly popular (Waitrose saw searches for 'comfort food' recipes up 44%). Waitrose also saw a 63% rise in searches of 'grow your own' - with searches for vegetable seeds increasing more than 20-fold.  

Top searches on the Waitrose website
Top searches on the Waitrose website

The report also noted the rise of the homemade ‘happy hour’ -- people recreating bar experiences at home and trying new cocktails. Popular buys during lockdown included Tequila (+175%) and Kimchi (+43%) as people look to create a party atmosphere, and liqueurs are up 78% as people try new cocktails and drinks at home. Of the respondents, 20% said they had a ‘virtual’ cocktail or drinks party; 20% had eaten dinner ‘with’ friends or family. Of those who drink alcohol, 25% are drinking more since lockdown and 21% are drinking less.

Restaurant eating at home

What trends might stick? The report suggested that trends to change long-term include the increased demand for grocery shopping online​, the desire to create restaurant experiences at home and the urge to support British producers.

Waitrose Executive Chef Martyn Lee said there has been an increase in people recreating a restaurant experience at home owing to restaurant closures.

"We’ve all had to get used to a new way of living, cooking and eating during lockdown. Whether working harder to use up ingredients in store cupboards in a creative way, or taking the time to try cooking a new cuisine, it’s been great to see lots of people losing their fear of failing and trying new recipes that they might normally give a wide berth​,” he said.

Natalie Mitchell, Waitrose Head of Innovation and Product Development, said: “Looking ahead, with many of us eating all three meals at home most days, people want ways to get variation into their cooking. Particularly at the moment, we all need a Saturday night dinner to feel different to a weekday meal. Because of this, our chefs and product developers are making sure that our food innovation really responds to the significant shifts in customer behaviour.”

Jane Pickering, Waitrose Agricultural Manager, added: “More than ever, shoppers want to support British farmers - and we certainly see this enduring. We are of course sticking by our British sourcing commitments, and there are some more subtle ways in which the British farming industry needs support. For example, with increased demand for mince for batch cooking, many other cuts of beef were in danger of being forgotten about - so we've started our biggest ever promotional drive across the rest of our beef range to ensure other cuts don't end up going to waste.”

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