Normality resumes

Cooking is the new commute, states Waitrose. One of its summaries from the Waitrose Food & Drink Report 2021, is based on wide-ranging new OnePoll research of 2,000 people across Britain – not just Waitrose shoppers. 

Research is supported by insights from Waitrose food, drink and retail experts, as well as from Waitrose shoppers. It is backed up with sales data from millions of purchases on Waitrose shops and online from throughout the year. 

With 74% of those now working at home saying cooking provides a break between their ‘work time’ and ‘home time’, many people have rediscovered the joy of cooking. Even with the lockdown lifted in part, 2020 seems to have changed consumers on a longer-term basis and their preference to cook at home.

The findings support recent others including a study of 2,000 adults in the UK, which found more than half of UK residents have been experimenting and using extra ingredients in their cooking more often since staying at home. The research, commissioned by Tesco, found that the average household now spends almost seven hours a week cooking its meals – compared to just six hours previously.

Waitrose also finds that nearly 30% of car-owners have reduced – or plan to reduce – cars in their household, as localism leads the way. This will lead to more online shopping. A quarter of us shopped online for food for the first time this year, and one in 10 of us now shop for food only once a fortnight – with 60% of us saying changes to our shopping habits will stick.

I believe shoppers will look for help to create a variety of meals – from the quick and easy to the more complicated, tasty and flavoursome dishes.

More than half of us value food more than we did pre-Covid. Over half say the pandemic has acted as a ‘reset button’ on our busy lives, with 58% us saying we’ve secretly enjoyed the lack of pressure to go out. Meanwhile, winter BBQs, foraging, ‘tornado omelettes’ and spritzers are among the year’s hottest food and drink trends

In other trends, sales of British seafood have tripled over the last six months as consumers have become more adventurous in their tastes.

What consumers would like to see in the future will also have a bearing on developments across the food and beverage industry: 

  • 68% said they’d like to see the UK government invest in agricultural innovation;
  • 33% want supermarkets to be involved in helping reduce deforestation;
  • 75% want suppliers to set excess aside excess food to help those struggling in poverty;
  • 60% say they want supermarkets to continue to strive toward net zero carbon commitments.

Waitrose’s research highlights changes in daily rituals, and the way we shop since the pandemic started. What was described as a ‘new normal’ may not be anything such as the changes we are witnessing morph into just normal.

Martyn Lee, Waitrose’s executive chef, summed it up well: “An increase in the importance of food and its power to bring us together has pushed many of us back to old-fashioned meal planning and recipes. Comfort and nostalgia are back.”

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