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convivial
category - convenience
sector - food & drink
type - trends
Trends
sector - youth
Changing dining dynamics have created a new convenience culture focused on elevating the experience and enjoyment of eating and drinking at home.

There are many contradictions in modern eating. In between special occasions, everyday eating competes with the rest of our lives, leaving convenience to play a larger role than most of us would like to admit. For urban consumers, daily diets have become reliant on a series of shortcuts where food is regarded as little more than fuel. This more functional approach has been gathering momentum as snacking, meal delivery and solo dining transform our relationship with food – and with each other.

‘In every continent, there has been a common set of changes from savoury foods to sweet ones, from meals to snacks, dinners cooked at home to meals eaten out or takeaways,’ says food scholar and writer Bee Wilson, author of The Way We Eat Now. ‘The nutrient content of our meals is one thing that has radically changed; the psychology of eating is another. Much of our eating takes place in a new chaotic atmosphere in which we no longer have many rules to fall back on.’

By focusing on encouraging and enabling this new way of eating, brands are missing an opportunity. Food and drink cater for our fundamental need to belong, but with three in 10 US Millennials saying they feel lonely always or often, convenience culture as we know it is clearly leaving consumers hungry for connection (source: YouGov). In 2019, Millennials are expected to overtake Baby Boomers as the largest adult population in the US, according to Pew Research Center. As this demographic matures, their values are changing, and the home is being re-established as a vital frontier for the future of food and drink.

Amid the rising popularity of meal kits and delivery apps, eating in has become the new dining out. Research also reveals that consumers are increasingly refocusing on fundamentals, such as cooking simple meals. In the UK, 61% say that sharing memorable experiences with loved ones is their priority and more than a sixth cook for others more often today than they did five years ago (source: Waitrose).

 

Published by:

26 May 2020

Author: Alex Hawkins

Image: How to Eat Everything by Kelsey McClellan

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©Louise Hagger / image taken from Rosa’s Thai Cafe: The Vegetarian Cookbook (Mitchell Beazley 2018)

Streamlined Snacking

Day-to-day dining has become more informal and modern mealtimes have been steadily streamlined to deliver in terms of speed and cost. Globally, consumers are spending less time preparing meals, and 19% of main meals eaten at home are ready-to-eat rather than home-made. In a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour, snacking – which now accounts for 23% of all global eating and drinking –has started to emerge as an alternative to square meals (source: Kantar Worldpanel).

As meals are disrupted by snacking, consumers are rethinking routine eating occasions. Between 2014 and 2018, the percentage of US consumers who agreed that breakfast is more important than lunch or dinner fell from 55% to 50%. Now, nearly three-quarters of consumers in the US say they prefer to snack in the morning, opting for light, portable foods that can be eaten at the start of the day (source: Mintel).

While many factors driving these shifts are external, changes in the home itself are also at play. ‘There has been a move away from the formal dining room as a separate space in more modern houses, but also in the new standard for the open kitchen,’ Amy Trubek, an associate professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont, tells The Atlantic. ‘This creates, overall, a more informal relationship with the moment when a meal is consumed.’

App-etites

City lifestyles are increasingly defined by convenience and by 2050, 68% of the world’s population is projected to live in urban areas (source: UN). As the food and drink sector evolves to meet the needs of time-pressed consumers who are accessing a growing share of goods and services online, both the restaurant industry and grocery retail are changing and adapting faster than ever.

In the restaurant industry, meal delivery is slowly replacing traditional table- and counter-service models. According to the National Restaurant Association, about 60% of US restaurant dining is now ‘off-premise’ – meaning drive-throughs, takeaway meals and food delivery. To remain relevant and competitive in this booming market for food delivery, supermarkets and restaurants are working with third-party delivery services.

 
‘From the booming food delivery market to the rise of single-person households, changes in and out of the home are forcing us to rethink routine eating occasions.’
Alex Hawkins, senior foresight writer, The Future Laboratory
 

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