Every year Waitrose produces a ‘Food and Drink Report’ that joyfully explores the consumption habits of Britain over the last 12 months.
They delve deeper than simply presenting the supermarket data, however, rounding up how the minds of families across the UK have changed over the course of 2019. Their research relies on analysing the shopping habits of 2000 people of different ages, and using focus groups to really understand the thoughts behind our habits.
The report is packed full of facts about our behaviour as consumers. With 2018’s report summarised as ‘the era of the mindful consumer,’ it appears that this trend has continued in 2019. This year’s report is titled ‘a return to kindness.’ There’s no doubt that 2019 has been the year of climate consciousness and nostalgia for a simpler time, when the world seemed not to be plagued by rising sea levels and complicated politics, and Waitrose see this reflected in our eating and drinking habits.
Reports like these are a really interesting way of understanding how the events of the last year may have changed the minds of the general public, and for predicting the food trends of the year to come. Plus, you can see if your own consumption choices fit with the rest of the UK!
One finding of the report was that Brits are increasingly engaging in ‘mindful spending’, buying less on-the-go lunches and coffees. Waitrose summarised that 6% of Britons say they buy more than 4 cups of coffee each week, compared to 15% in 2015. Taking homemade lunches to work, and grabbing a cup of coffee before we leave the house can make a lot of difference to our weekly spending. This trend makes a lot of sense: an average sandwich and coffee in a lunchtime grab shop like Pret will set us back around at least £5. This finding is also good news for the environment, as shop bought lunches produce a serious amount of plastic waste.
Waitrose had some fun with their research too: the report even takes account of county differences in crisp choice. Apparently Britain’s preferred crisp flavour is cheese and onion (personally I don’t agree…) but here in the West Midlands we are the only area that prefer ready salted. Perhaps Birmingham is ahead of the game in terms of living simply!
On a more serious note, we were searching for greater simplicity in the kitchen and home this year. Waitrose found that 38% of their sample thought their value placed on material items has decreased in the last decade. To me, the 2019 movement away from materialism feels nostalgic and seems to make sense in light of the increased conversations around mental health in the UK right now. In the kitchen, this quest for simplicity has manifested in more of us growing our own food, and cooking uncomplicated but just as delicious meals. I hope we carry on the simplicity trend in 2020!
Unsurprisingly, plant based eating rose in 2019, but so did the meat eater’s desire to eat more high quality produce. In terms of future hot trends, ‘seacuterie’ is apparently one to watch (seacuterie is a charcuterie board with fish replacing classic meats like ham). Middle Eastern cuisine is having a moment in the UK, which a senior innovation development chef at Waitrose put down to its popularity with foodies and the diversity of spicy to sweet flavour profiles. The 2020 restaurant scene will no doubt aim to capitalise on this delicious trend, and Middle Eastern food is well worth a try if you aren’t already obsessed. Chilli sales have also risen, with more adventurous combinations becoming cool – a focus group participant called Lynne recommended chilli flakes sprinkled on top of ice cream!
The further flung future looks high tech to Waitrose. By 2025 they predict automated food delivery services, and an overall increase in food production aided by new technology. Big questions remain about the population booming by 2030, how will the consumption of 8.5 billion people change? The report speculated that our diets will be focused on ‘high-performance ingredients’, and steered clear of serious questions about sustainability. Without being too serious or overly data-focused, the Waitrose food and drink report was a delightful read; look out for the next issue in November 2020.