2021 F&B TRENDS 4th March 2021
The unprecedented health crisis has transformed the way we approach our daily lives – including, what we eat, how we eat and where we eat. We are becoming more conscious about our choices. Healthier and more sustainable options are most certainly on the rise. Moreover, with the closures across hospitality, we notice how certain restaurant models were already broken, and how the pandemic has acted as an amplifier for themes driving change previously. It is also bringing some new challenges and longer terms shifts expected to persist throughout 2021, which we explore here.
FOOD IS HEALTH: THE RISE OF HEALTH-CONSCIOUS NUTRITION
The healthy food movement has become an unstoppable trend and the link between diet, nutrition and holistic wellbeing continues apace. According to I-AM Shift 2019 Convenience Report HERE: NOW, 49% of customers would like to see nutritional information on the menu and 42% would like to see the provenance of the food as well. Plant based nutrition and dairy free alternatives are more popular than ever. Veganism really entered the mass consciousness in 2019 and it is spreading even further, with consumers rising awareness of sustainability. According to a recent survey by IGD more than 50% of UK adults intend to eat more vegetables (IGD, Appetite for change, 2020). Companies that sell vegan alternatives like Impossible Foods are gaining market share, and collaborations with fast food brands such as KFC with Quorn, Burger King with The Vegetarian Butcher and McDonalds with Beyond Meat, show how these alternatives are gaining mass appeal.
Offerings such as gluten-free, dairy and meat alternatives are becoming important new requirements to menus. Personalisation in nutrition is rising as well. F&B services according to genetics and DNA sequencing are getting more attention from customers each day. One company that follows this trend is DNAfit. The DNA based eating experience promises a smarter, easier and more effective solution to health and fitness, entirely unique to DNA profiles of its customers. Whatever the end goal is, DNAfit claims to have a unique solution to personalise the path to long-term health and wellness.
RADICAL TRANSPARENCY: FOOD TRACEABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY VALUES
With the increasing demand for transparency, people now want to know where their food comes from, how it was produced and how it was sourced. Subsequently, cleaner practices, the choice of ingredients and a strict chain of custody are more important than ever. As Edelman Trust Barometer shows, more than 70% of consumers link purchase to considerations that historically were tied to trust in corporations, including supply chain, reputation, values, environmental impact and customer before profit.
A perfect example of catering to transparency and the ‘traceability of product’ is ‘Connecting Food’, a digital platform that can follow a product in real-time, tracking and digitally auditing each batch or production as it goes through the food supply chain.
Not only do consumers want to know where their food comes from; they also want to know its impact on the environment and whether it contributes to climate change. 57% of consumers say they will be more likely to spend money at a business that offers locally produced products once the lockdown has lifted than they would have done before the stay-at-home order was imposed. (Deloitte,2020) Leading brands are taking these values and consumer mindsets into consideration, a recent example is McDonalds with Big Good ‘a burger created to help’, an initiative aiming to support the local farmers in Spain. The burger’s ingredients such as beef, tomatoes, lettuce and cheese are sourced from Spanish livestock and agricultural producers whose livelihoods have been affected by the pandemic.
All of this is also trickling down to the concept of ‘value with values’, successful brands will be the ones able to provide consumers with responsibly priced and sourced health foods. For instance, French brand ‘C’est qui le patron’, that coins themselves as ‘The consumer-led brand’, aims to re-empower the consumer through the products’ supply chain, from its manufacturing to its commercialisation. It specifically, surveys French consumers on what they are willing to pay for organic and/ or locally produced foods and discusses with the farmers to assess the possibilities. For 0.30 euros more, consumers can enjoy quality milk that is locally produced to a traceable location and support farmers gain a larger profit margin and survive within the supermarket industry.
FOOD-VENIENCE: FROM MEAL DELIVERY TO MEAL KITS
In the digital age our culture has evolved into one that seeks convenience. In the UK, there has been 245% year on year growth in spending on meal delivery according to Kantar. While already a trend in the sense that people have adopted food delivery and takeout out of sheer necessity, these actions will become a regular habit in 2021. According to the research McKinsey conducted, there has been 85% decline in revenues of casual dining and fine dining restaurants in 2020. While by 2024, the number of people using food delivery services online is projected to reach 96.9 million in Europe (Statista, 2020).
Moreover, as a result of the lockdown measures, the use of meal kits has intensified, with people being home and having more time on their hands to prepare meals. These recipe boxes and the meal kit market have greatly evolved to offer a breadth of choice, allowing consumers to align their eating habits with their lifestyle goals. Another interesting feature stemming from the pandemic is how restaurants have had to pivot and explore the realm of DIY meal kits. This includes Patty & Bun, Pizza Pilgrims, Hawksmoor and Ottolenghi amongst others.
With the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in onboarding of older generations on these platforms, including in some cases untapped age groups, pushing these services to become a new habit for many more. The world F&B e-commerce users reached 1.5 billion in 2019 and are expected to grow by 800 million, with an average of 25% y-o-y growth, by 2024 (Business Wire, 2020) Above all, these shifts are making the online food delivery market a legitimate option when choosing what to eat at home, a leisure occasion that is fuelled by convenience. A recent CGA study in the UK shows that of those who ordered delivery for the first time, or more often than usual, 60% said they would continue their frequency of ordering delivery from restaurants, or takeaways (70%). More than a third (37%) also claimed they were likely to order delivery from pubs and bars in the future, if available.
It is fair to say, that online food delivery has become a dining ritual in its own right, and that it has embedded itself into the modern consumers lifestyle.
SCI-FI FOODS: CREATIVITY IN THE KITCHEN WITH ROBOTICS, AUTOMATION AND GHOST KITCHENS
Robotics is and will continue to be the new buzz word in restaurants. Whether front or back of house, using automated technology has great potential to make the cooking, serving, cleaning and other practices faster and more efficient. Many brands have already started to introduce the use of robots that can cook with high accuracy without compromising on taste quality and cleanliness. When the technology of the kitchen merges with the latest developments in computing, AI-powered robots come into the picture. Currently, the main advantages of these types of technologies are for commercial roll out, especially for the fast-casual sector. In addition to this, with today’s exceptional health concerns, automation also comes up as an opportunity to reduce human contamination and worries around hygiene.
Catering to sanitation needs as well as the future of food resources, is the promising 3D food printing technology. Fast food giant, KFC has announced that they have been partnering to create the world’s first laboratory-produced chicken nuggets, part of their “restaurant of the future” concept. The restaurant chain is currently working with the Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions to develop bioprinting technology that will “print” chicken meat, using chicken cells and plant material.
New brands in this area are also emerging, Japanese conceptual design studio Open Meals has announced a futuristic restaurant concept called Sushi Singularity that will use a customers’ DNA samples to create 3D-printed sushi tailored to their nutritional needs. The democratisation of hyper personalised nutrition across eating experiences is also an increasingly important selling point in the industry.
Multiplying largely due to lockdown measures and restaurant closures are ghost kitchens. With many restaurants having no more than one location or lacking the infrastructure to cater to deliveries; ghost kitchens are a relevant solution that efficiently caters to the food delivery model. The surge in this format is primarily due to food delivery platforms wanting to bring restaurants closer to certain populated areas – to increase the customer experience and service metrics, however, this concept brings other opportunities. Ghost kitchens can transform into testing hubs for new food concepts and they can also provide a chance for independent restaurants to carry out fast and convenient rollouts to expand their reach. Ghost kitchens could be a $1T global market by 2030, says Euromonitor.
GASTRONOMIC AMUSEMENT: IMMERSIVE DINING AND CURATED FOOD & BEVERAGE EXPERIENCES
Long before the pandemic, there was a significant shift happening across restaurants, with people seeking opportunities to level-up the dining experience. Increasingly discerning consumers were pursuing engaging experiences that added value to their lives. This will persist and is also likely to see a surge as lockdown measures ease – the excitement to experience and discover new things will be at an all-time high as we edge towards normality.
However, we will see more immersive dining experiences incorporate technology in innovative ways. The new methodologies that create multi-sensory engagement with the utilisation of technology have the ability to enhance the diner’s experience, whether that be through customer service with personalisation options or as entertainment such as richer storytelling and digital-sensory features.
From off-menu secrets, immersive sensorial surprises to adding entertainment to the mix, there are many ways in which brands can experiment in this area. One great example is Alchemist from Copenhagen which coins itself as a ‘holistic cuisine’. Their ambition is to redefine dining, fusing the science of molecular gastronomy with technology, theatre, art and design in order to create a ‘dramaturgically driven sensory experience’. Similar to a planetarium the Alchemist presents an immersive physical space with digital screens surrounding you as an ever-evolving landscape, and dishes served in cohesion with the environment showcased – a true multi-sensory storytelling experience.
Another promising concept that has been exceeding expectations for the last few years with its immersive journeys is Tree by Naked in Tokyo, Japan. The restaurant promises a perfect mix of virtual reality, projection mapping, lighting, music and a six-course dinner set to complete the tree-themed worldview. Studies show that, in the long term, customers feel happier and satisfied after spending money on holistic experiences rather than simply on a product with little context.
Therefore, as we look to the future of eating experiences, whilst they will differ based on their formats (fast casual / fine dining etc.), one thing is certain, we will see an increase in restaurants catering to immersive dining, with more curation, personalisation and engaging combinations of entertainment.
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