Welcome to the era of the mindful consumer. That’s the verdict from Waitrose, which has released its food and drink report for 2018-19.
“As we become increasingly mindful of our own health, the wellbeing of our family and that of the planet, we’re reshaping how we shop, cook and eat,” explained Waitrose managing director Rob Collins.
“The driving force behind this movement, as our research uncovered, is a desire to look after ourselves and our environment. Just how much this consciousness is taking hold was borne out by the incredible reaction to the final episode of BBC One’s Blue Planet II, a rallying call to tackle the plastic waste in our oceans. The mindful movement marks a subtle shift in how we live, based on the acknowledgement that our natural resources are precious.”
The report puts forward Waitrose’s top five predictions for what will be big in food and drink in 2019. Let’s tuck in, shall we?
1. Personalised health
The mainstream use of artificial intelligence (AI) to improve our health and diet is just around the corner, according to Waitrose.
Thanks to algorithms, computer programmes, apps and voice-recognition technology, we’ll soon be able to receive accurate, up-to-date and tailored advice on how best to look after ourselves, including personalised dietary tips and bespoke shopping lists. Add to that NHS England publishing its code of conduct for the use of AI this year and Waitrose is predicting the revolution in personalised dietary advice is on its way.
2. The next big scoop
Ice cream is cool again thanks to experimental new flavours, texture and colours, as Food Spark noted earlier this year. No longer the preserve of children’s parties or a day at the beach, the popular dessert is entering a new era of Insta-friendly indulgence.
Taking their influences from street food in Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, trendy new parlours are popping up in the UK and pushing ice cream to the next level of sensory experience, like London operators Bubblewrap Waffle and Pan-n-Ice.
In retail, supermarket ice cream sales smashed the £1bn mark this year, so Waitrose thinks this fun trend is only just getting started.
3. Out of West Africa
From Ghana to Senegal and Nigeria to Mali, food from West Africa is set to become the next big thing. Brits love their spicy food, and the flavours from this part of the world are extremely special, notes the report.
Whether it’s tangy chicken yassa or tasty jollof rice, dishes are often cooked in one pot, so lend themselves to the trend for sharing as well.
Food Spark has been talking about the West Africa evolution since the 2017 opening of the restaurant Ikoyi. Since then, Unilever has released Ghanaian-inspired snack pots, West African supper clubs and pop-ups have increased visibility, and fledging companies like DVees are pushing condiments, snacks and spices into retail.
4. A bitter pill to swallow
As a nation, Brits have long embraced sweet, sour and salty taste profiles. Now it looks as though their errant cousin, bitterness, is coming in from the cold. Already popular in drinks such as the negroni and Aperol spritz, bitter food is coming to a plate near you, predicts Waitrose.
Our palates are about to take a further leap – forget social convention, it’s time to get bitter.
5. Cocktail shake up
Some very different ingredients will be finding their way into our drinks next year. Palates and lifestyles are changing, and demand for alcohol-free options is increasing as almost a third of 16 to 25-year-olds are now teetotallers, meaning mixologists are getting more imaginative.
The likes of pickled onion and beetroot will tickle taste buds, aquafaba will make an appearance as vegan foam, and using kitchen trimmings like fruit rind and veg peel in cocktails will reduce waste.
Kombucha will also make its way in as a mixer, while alcohol-free spirits will provide even more complexity of flavour.
Plastic-free: customers are increasingly purchasing unpackaged fruit and vegetables in-store. For example, sales of loose pears are growing at 30 times the rate of bagged pears, and Waitrose expects this trend to continue.
The New York day: in a nod to the city that never sleeps, consumers’ longer and busier days have also impacted on their eating habits. Waitrose research showed that 15% of early risers now have an extra breakfast to get through those longer mornings, while almost a third are eating dinner earlier.
Plant-based eating: one in eight Brits – or almost 13% of the population – is now vegetarian or vegan, with a further 21% identifying as flexitarian, according to Waitrose research. The top three reasons for going vegan or vegetarian were animal welfare concerns, health and environmental concerns. The research revealed the most missed meat meals were a roast, bacon sandwich and sausages.
But people also dip in and out of vegetarianism, said Jonathan Moore, Waitrose’s executive chef. Its survey found half of all those who say they’re vegetarian or vegan also eat meat at weekends, occasionally or on special occasions.
“Because vegetables are taking centre stage, they need to have the wow factor. We’re seeing soaring demand for interesting flavours and textures, so we’re constantly trying to find the next big ingredient,” added Andrew Allchurch, partner and head of Fresh Produce Buying.
No food hangover: For decades, feeling full after a meal was an aspiration, particularly in the post-war years, but today, 60% of people find this attitude outdated. In fact, 29% of people eat lighter meals in the evening to avoid a food hangover as they don’t want to feel sluggish and would rather eat smarter to feel healthier.
Research found that 60% of respondents resist the urge to eat on the run; they're now more likely to sit down to enjoy their meals mindfully. For instance, breakfast is becoming an event again, rather than a grab-and-go meal, claims Waitrose. Sales of low-sugar granola and muesli ranges are up by 27% this year.
What came before
While Waitrose’s report peeps into the future, it also looked at what led the way in 2018.
Jackfruit: it’s now found in everything from burgers to tacos, and is a popular substitute for pulled pork. Food Spark marked it as a game-changer for the meat-free market back in 2017 and it now appears on restaurant and pub menus, as well as in snacking form.
Miso: sales of white miso paste are up 28% at Waitrose and it’s increasingly used in non-Japanese dishes, like miso-glazed parsnips, to add a savoury taste. Could shio koji be next?
Turnips: the humble vegetable is appearing in everything from gratin to vegetarian meatballs and mash. Pickling may also have given it a boost.
Chicken skin: delicious to dip, or when served as a canape, people have also been whipping it into butter and crumbling it over seafood. Food Spark has also noted it entering into restaurants and grab-and-go.
Sourdough: boosted by the ever-growing popularity of brunch, sales of sourdough loaves have soared by a third at Waitrose.
Aquafaba: the chickpea water that makes an excellent egg replacement in vegan products is in everything from mayonnaise to desserts. It’s now mainstream enough to have made it into the Scrabble dictionary too.
Apple cider vinegar: once the preserve of salad dressings, the purported health benefits and trend for fermented foods have seen sales rise 60% this year. It’s something Food Spark noted last year as vinegar moved from mere condiment to must-have ingredient.
Herbs in puddings: fancy some lemon thyme mousse? Or tonka bean and thyme panna cotta? Pass the spoon.
Kefir: with the gut obsession gearing up this year, Food Spark predicted this naturally fermented drink, which is similar to yogurt and has long been consumed in mainland Europe, could be destined for big things. UK sales have almost tripled this year, said Waitrose.
This year's headlines
- The most popular posts on social media were fluffy jacket potatoes; sticky garlic and chilli prawns; and strawberry and rose layer cake
- There were 30,000 questions and posts about plastic on Waitrose’s Twitter in the six months after the final episode of Blue Planet II – a 16-fold increase on last year
- There has been a 114% increase in mentions of vegan food and cooking on Waitrose’s Twitter – that’s more than 22,000 mentions
- Searches for vegan and veggie barbecue recipes on the Waitrose website rose by 350% over the summer, with beetroot burgers and celeriac steaks topping the bill
- Views of healthy recipes on Waitrose have risen by 158% and visits to online BMI calculator have increased by 104%
- Searches on the website for advice and products using the word ‘healthy’ have risen by 87%
- How to cook a beef roast is the most popular voice-searched term on the website