Paul Hargreaves: Food and Drink Trends during the Pandemic
What are the main food and drink trends coming out of the pandemic lockdown and will these continue for the rest of the year and beyond? I’m ignoring the initial stock-piling phase as that was a one-off phenomenon and I hope those people, a minority, who greedily stock-piled more pasta, beans and tinned tomatoes than they needed have had enough of pasta-based Italian meals by now!
The real trends we ought to take heed of are those that have lasted now ten weeks or more and may change the balance of what we stock in our stores. First, family mealtimes are back again. No more microwave meals for people stuck late at the office or kids eating first before the parents eat later. Good old-fashioned family meals cooked from scratch are in with herbs and spices seeing a huge increase in sales as well as vegetables and meat.
Surely by now we are all aware of the national flour shortage caused by many more people aspiring to enter the Great British Bake-Off next year. We aren’t necessarily consuming more flour as a nation before, but sales have switched massively from large bags used by bakers and kitchens to small retail sizes and the producers can’t keep up.
Local shopping is back with a bang with many local retailers reportedly as busy as pre-Christmas every week. These are Cotswold Fayre’s main customers and we have been 40% up during the pandemic and that was with around 30% of our customers shut for much of that time. Consumers have discovered their local retailers and whilst some may revert to old habits post-pandemic, I believe many will stay as they have enjoyed the better service and better food at these local stores.
Many retailers have started home delivery services to their customers during these difficult times, with lunches for those working at home to groceries for the vulnerable. Restaurants, too, who were forced to closed have been delivering quality ready-meals and all these new services will stay post lockdown. Retailers and restaurants should improve their systems and websites in order to make ordering a better customer experience.
We should also mention alcohol with people trying to mix their own cocktails at home for variety and even a new cocktail being named ‘quarantini’ created during lockdown. More interesting drinks and mixers are here to stay. One trend that may not stay is retailers not being interested in promotions; I am sure many of them will go back to promoting like crazy later in the year and expecting suppliers to pay for every penny and more.
Finally, can we expect the community spirit to continue after lockdown. Many people hope so and this will benefit local shops and local producers and possibly also those brands that have a purpose that benefits the world community in some way. I do believe that people are already thinking about their purchasing in a new way and that brands that are a Force for Good in some way and have shown to treat their people well during the pandemic will come out stronger than before. I am more hopeful than ever that the way we buy goods and do business will be transformed through this pandemic and the changes will be good for us and good for the planet too.