Looking back over the development in the food and drink industry over 2018 the year has not presented anything to astonish…it has very much been a year of ‘more of the same’, and the predictions for 2019 are for these trends to continue. But this doesn’t make these changes any less significant; in some cases, from a societal point of view, they are seismic.
The information in this post comes from a number of sources (they are listed at the bottom) but one new report, the Food Provenance, Allergies and Ethics, UK Restaurant Customer Survey December 2018 produced by Silent Customer, a mystery dining service, in collaboration with the new industry database, Tried and Supplied, has proved particularly revealing. Our thanks go to Silent Customer Director, Janet Wood, for allowing us to reproduce graphs and quotes from this report here.
A very Happy New Year to all our readers!
In this report:
- Educated and curious customers that want truthful information
- Ethics and animals: veganism, meat substitutes and animal welfare
- Sustainability: plastics, waste, food miles and farming methods
- You are what you eat: issues of health and nutrition
- Food and drink as the foundation of social gatherings: traditional Sunday roast, breakfast, and supper clubs
- Time is of the essence: The new technology at Amazon Go, the rise of meal kits, and reduced-to-nothing recipes
- New markets: wine and venison
- On the macro-level: technology cuts out the big middle man
- What is on the up? Cuisines and ingredients
Educated and curious consumers that want truthful information
Restaurateurs, chefs and hoteliers need to be aware that consumers are more informed, curious and thoughtful than ever before, and the result is that they are demanding to know more. This means that industry professionals need to:
The need for the restaurateur to build trust
The Silent Customer survey reveals that many restaurant-goers are very cynical souls, and restaurateurs have an uphill job to regain their trust. And chef-patron Georgio Alessio of La Lanterna in Yorkshire says (follow this link for the full interview) this scepticism is all too often justified:
“The customer is being duped. You’ll see ‘local produce’ advertised at every fish and chip shop – but I went down to the market this morning and there was one cod there weighing two kilos. And I was the one that bought that – it went in my Scarborough frito misto.”
Three Silent Customer respondents relate their own experiences:
“A lot of restaurants (mostly independent restaurants, but occasionally chains) still incorrectly label things as vegetarian. On the worst occasions this can include fish, but mostly it’s things like animal rennet containing cheeses (like Parmesan.)”
“You read that they advertise ‘gluten free’ only to find at the till that cross contamination is not covered. What’s the bloody point!? False advertising.”
“I regularly ask a question about soy sauce as part of my mystery shop. If I ask if a product contains soy sauce, I am regularly told no, just barbecue sauce. If I persevere and ask if the BBQ sauce contains soy sauce, the answer is often yes…..”
One solution for the consumer is to develop a personal relationship with specific, independent restaurants, as Alessio suggests:
“Instead, what people should be doing, is seeking out their local restaurateur. They should be looking for chefs who are striving for excellence rather than consistency. It’s the difference between buying your suits in a department store and going to a tailor: or between treating yourself to an original painting and buying a print.”
Foodism is an excellent magazine for diners in London wishing to find chefs like this. One of their recent publications focussed entirely on sustainable eating and picked out one such chef, James Lowe of Lyles in London, who buys a single pig to last two weeks and changes the menu to use the whole pig before ordering the next. This is his response to the “nose to tail” phrase, which has encouraged many restaurants to introduce “pig’s head terrine” or “crispy pig tails” to the menu without considering the ethics of requiring 120 pigs to be butchered just so that they can have the 120 heads that they get through in a week and the scale of the butchery operation this would require to supply them. See also War on Waste, below.
Servers and menus must offer a lot more information….but keep a balance
Restaurants will find that they have to give a lot more information on their menus. Customers want assurances about allergies; about provenance – that the animals they are eating have had a reasonable life, or that the food miles aren’t too high; about ethics – that vegan really means vegan.
And it isn’t just the menu that will be expected to be helpful and informative, servers are also expected to know a great deal about the food they are bearing to the table.
Again, the quotes below from the Silent Customer report are very revealing:
“I have a friend who is lactose intolerant and it’s a nightmare asking for details from servers”
“I am regularly laughed at and told not to be ridiculous as no one is allergic to onions.”
“Some places do state where their food has been sourced, which is great as it then makes me think I should try them directly for cooking at home.”
“Meat provenance and quality are really important to me to the point where I will change menu choices and even venues if I feel it’s not good enough.”
But there has to be a balance, one respondent commented that the size of the menu could get out of hand, and another worried:
Ethics and animals
Vegetarianism and veganism – restaurateurs need to raise their game
Meat consumption in general is on a steep decline. These days people are not just be avoiding meat and leather, but eggs, wool, and silk too.
Sales of vegan food in the United States increased ten times more than other food in the period June 2017 – June 2018. Vegan meals are beginning to be served in schools and hospitals. Lookalike meat substitutes (see Trends for 2018) will continue to take off.
In the UK, Waitrose reports that one in eight Brits is now vegetarian or vegan, with an additional 21% describing themselves as flexitarian – eating meat only occasionally, and sourcing meat or animal products from farms championing animal welfare. The two groups together make up 33% of the population.
“The biggest aspect of modern life that will amaze them isn’t to do with class, race or sexuality, but food: hey, these weirdos were meat eaters!”
-Andrew Marr, New Statesman, December 2018
Andrew Allchurch, Partner and Head of Fresh Produce Buying, at Waitrose, points out that “Because vegetables are taking centre stage, they need to have the wow factor. We’re seeing soaring demand for interesting flavours and textures.”
Vegetables will also need a visual wow! factor as well as a flavour one. As Felicity Cloake, writing in the New Statesman, reports, “thanks to Instagram, technicolour veg seems to be the story of the season as a whole. ‘ Candy beetroot, golden beetroot, they’re selling like you wouldn’t believe,’ reports Simon Snowdon of The French Garden [at Covent Garden market]. ‘We used to be lucky to shift a box of purple or green cauliflower a fortnight. Now it’s a few a day. Purple and yellow carrots too.'”
Producers are also satisfying increased demand for heritage varieties of potatoes, apples…carrots… all kinds of fruit and vegetables.
This concurs with the popularity of posts on Saucy Dressings on, for example:
- Purple cauliflowers
- Golden beetroot
- heritage potatoes
- the pera meloa – pear-melon hybrid
Restaurateurs and chefs are going to have to raise their game on the vegetable front. The response from the Silent Customer survey reveals that there are many who think that very little creativity has gone into the development of the vegetarian option on the menu. Vegetarian options are often unimaginative and changed infrequently.
One development which seems to be slowing is the vegetarian ‘fake meat, oozing with beetroot blood’ option. Why would a customer, disgusted by the concept of an animal shedding blood and being killed on his behalf, want to be reminded of the process by the sight of fake blood in his food? Nevertheless, the first steak (not a processed burger), grown from cells in a lab has now been produced in Israel.
But there remains the uncomfortable feeling that ‘fake’ meat isn’t quite real. In general the public (and Jeremy Clarkson – see Food and Drink Trends – What’s in Store for 2018) remains skeptical. As one Silent Customer respondent comments:
“I hate the idea of meat being synthetically grown – it’s playing with nature and I feel it can only have a negative effect on our bodies.”
While another says:
“Even though I am a vegetarian for ethical reasons, I still don’t think I would want to eat lab grown meat.”
“Vegan products which sell themselves via ethics, yet are massively produced, contain masses of food miles, are packaged in plastic, and are hardly any more ethical or environmentally friendly than McDonalds in truth.”
There is a lot of emotion involved in our feelings about animal products with most people making the assumption that killing animals to eat their meat is the least ethical of all the uses, borne out by the Silent Customer survey with 43% of respondents citing meat as being the least ethical type of animal farming.
But here again, gradually the public is considering these questions with more care. Below is a selection of comments from the Silent Customer survey:
“Babies taken away from mothers, days after giving birth so that WE can drink the milk she produces. Cows which are supposed to live for 20+ years, collapsing after four years. Constantly being impregnated / “raped” by human hands so that she doesn’t stop producing milk. Cysts, udder infections, pumped with antibiotics so she can keep soldiering on and producing milk no matter the pain she’s in. This has to be the most traumatic life for any animal, ever.”
“Fish farming is OK but putting a net out and throwing back what not allowed to catch has to be wrong.”
“Some farms are more compassionate about animal welfare than others. So good to see an animal frolicking around a lush field rather than cooped inside concrete stalls, standing or lying in their own waste or rammed into transport trucks and crates. They are scared. It’s about educating the general public. Awareness … in schools maybe?”
“I’d be very impressed if more restaurants would cook with grass-fed meat.”
It’s surprising the lack of concern for fish. Mike Reid, Head Chef at M Restaurants is said in a recent Foodism article, “the conversation around ethical and sustainable fish is difficult – I never feel it’s discussed with the urgency reflecting the situation…There wold be an outcry if a restaurant put black rhino on the menu – no one would choose to eat something that was about to be extinct – yet people do it every day with species of fish that are going to be extinct if we continue to overfish or mass fish our waters.” Perhaps this will gain awareness in the coming year and sustainable fish like hake, pollock, trout and turbot will increase in popularity.
Whatever the type of animal farming there is likely to be more demand for assurances from independent bodies such as the RSPCA. Food producers will want to include information regarding animal welfare in their labeling, and restaurateurs will want to include it on their menu, their website, and any other publicity.
All the sources for this post suggest that there will also be a continuing concern regarding husbandry of the limited resources we have on this earth – a do no harm approach.
War on plastic pollution
The British public watched albatross parents unwittingly feeding their chicks plastic in the final episode of BBC One’s Blue Planet II and they were horrified. Now 47% of consumers in this country identify plastic pollution as an environmental issue that is important to them.
Young people in particular – looking to the future perhaps – are more aware than their elders of the long-term damaging effects of plastics. 66% of 18-24 year-olds are now more likely to opt for a reusable coffee cup when out.
Waitrose reports that sales of loose pears are growing at 30 times the rate of bagged pears, and they are prepared for this trend to continue. There will be an increased use by the consumer of natural wrapping materials such as Bee’s Wrap, a biodegradable, bees’-wax-coated textile wrapping which is reusable, and whose makers advocate “at the end of your wrap’s useful life in the kitchen, cut the wrap into strips to add to your compost heap, or wrap them around pieces of kindling and use as a natural and effective fire starter.”
In Australia, the supermarket Coles is using a recyclable bio-based layered PET for its meat, poultry and seafood products.
War on Waste
Cutting down on waste will continue to be a priority both for the home consumer and for the professional chef. There will be more initiatives such as Massimo Bottura’s Bread Is Gold initiative – a compilation of chefs from around the world preparing extraordinary meals from ordinary and sometimes ‘wasted’ ingredients. Go to Golden Couscous, Sour Cream, Meatballs for an example of a great recipe from this culinary bible.
Or, for example, Foodism‘s best pop-up winner, WastED. Perched on Selfridges rooftop, chef Dan Barber (of Blue Hill, no less) was joined in the kitchen by some of the best sustainable chefs including: Tom Hunt, Tom Anglesea and Fergus Henderson. Every day a different chef was challenged to create a new menu from leftovers.
Or there is the more permanent solution adopted by chef-patron Adam Handling, who, after opening The Frog E1, then opened a zero-waste café, Bean & Wheat, to use up the restaurant’s food waste.
Famed barman, Ryan Chetiyawardana, has opened Super Lyan where he serves pre-bottled and draught cocktails.
Less stellar barmen will find themselves using kitchen-cast-off vegetable and fruit peel to garnish their cocktails.
Charities like Wrap and Planzhero are creating initiatives to help reduce waste. Apps such as Karma (Stockholm start-up which lists restaurants with surplus food and ranks them by distance, price, and the number of meal left) will proliferate.
Tesco sells a range of cold-pressed juices using wonky fruit and vegetables that would otherwise go to waste. Smaller producers, such as Tom Stevens who founded Wobblegate Cider using the fallen apples from his father’s fruit farm, will find ready customers.
But supermarkets are not the way to go. As Tom Hunt points out (Foodism Magazine, issue 28), “each time that food changes hands issues arise (such as storage, handling and fluctuating demand) causing food and packaging to be wasted. Shortening the food chain by shopping at your local market cuts out several of these steps, reducing unnecessary waste at every level.” So, the savvy consumer will build regular visits to local markets into their provisioning. If you really must frequent a supermarket Hunt suggests buying loose seasonal products.
Or buying vegetables which can be eaten in their entirety – broccolini (aka Tenderstem) for example.
Waste is not only a concern in the West. In China a staggering 44% of urban consumers aged 20-49 consider waste reduction to be an important factor when deciding whether or not a brand is ethical.
Food miles and increased demand for local produce
Consumers are also increasingly concerned to buy locally – not just to cut down food miles but also to support small local businesses, or out of concern for animal welfare. According to the Silent Customer survey concern about food miles is a close second greatest environmental concern after meat production.
Again, below are some telling comments from the report.
“Mainly that we need to be focused as a nation on the food miles and production of meat. We are miles ahead of other countries – including the USA however we still need to do our bit, especially with new horizons post Brexit/ new trading/ sourcing of foods.”
“I buy meat from a local butcher as I am appalled at the miles that live animals have to travel to abattoirs. I want to make sure my meat is local.”
“Local food can be up to 100 miles away. This is NOT local or necessary.”
Currently soil is being lost faster than it can be replenished. Climate warming is making efficient water management a priority. And consumers also worry about the effects of chemicals in the food chain. One Silent Customer respondent explains:
“Both of us are aware of the impact meat production has on our planet. Plus, because we are familiar with the British laws that do not allow meat to be injected with hormones, we try to only eat wider British or locally sourced meat.”
So the spotlight will be on farming methods, and farmers will find themselves incorporating their crop and animal management skills and irrigation systems into their branding. They’ll be wanting to ensure that consumers are aware of the source of their offering because consumers, and restaurateurs, and wholesalers, will all be demanding this knowledge.
Although the very large farms are likely to grow yet bigger (see Cutting Out the Middle Man below) there is also going to be a lot more interest in smallholdings, in urban and vertical farming, like Growing Underground a company that grows microgreens under the streets of Clapham, in restaurant potagers, and in people growing their own produce, even if it just, as Judith Hann suggests, growing herbs on a city balcony.
Again, another interesting comment from a Silent Customer respondent:
“The healthiest people grow their own food, cook their meals from scratch and eat only small amounts of meat and dairy. This is a very difficult thing to achieve in general, let alone when living in a big city. As such, I very much enjoy eating at restaurants who have grown the veggies they serve, on their roof top or restaurants that have their own urban, organic veggie patch.”
We reported on the increased emphasis on health in the trends for 2018. Incredibly, Waitrose reports that last year searches for advice and products including the word ‘healthy’ rose by 87% over the previous year when consumers were already at a level of high angst on this subject. People are increasingly using apps such as Edo which decodes food labels.
Ageing demographics are fueling what is becoming a worldwide obsession with consumers seeking out foods which counter the effects of aging; for bones, joints, the immune system, the brain, and the eye.
Alzheimer’s Disease, in particular, is said to be made worse by inflammation. So anti-inflammatory foods such as ginger, turmeric and green tea will continue to be popular. Diets such as the MIND diet; and the Mediterranean diet said to stave off Alzheimer’s will encourage increased use of berries, nuts and olive oil.
In Germany they are particularly concerned with their stomachs. 54% of German consumers want to buy food and drink which aids digestion. But they are not alone, fermented products, such as kefir, so good for the intestines, are likely to remain popular everywhere.
Food producers are changing their approach to marketing too. They are learning the lessons of the beauty industry and hawking their wares by couching their benefits in positive terms. ‘Anti-ageing’ is an adjective of the past.
The two industries will also collaborate, together producing products such as Yakult Beauty Plus Drinking Yogurt which includes collagen and Vitamin C to help boost a luminous and wrinkle-free complexion.
Nevertheless, we should remain grounded about what is actually happening. A survey published last February by the BMJ found that about half of all food bought in the UK is processed – ‘significantly altered in a factory’, a diet associated with a higher risk of cancer due to the additives and poor nutritional quality.
The Sunday roast
But despite the general move towards lighter eating during the week, the traditional weekend meal remains, according to the Waitrose report, sacrosanct. No 1 favourite they tell us is chicken, followed by beef, although what people really seem to enjoy are the roasties.
But the popularity of the Sunday roast is as much about family, nostalgia, and comfort. 30% of people say their mum cooks the best roast, while only 18% say their partner does.
Michael Zee, author of Symmetry Breakfast, explains that he got the idea for his book because the only meal when he and his partner could actually meet was breakfast. According to Waitrose, he is not alone, and now breakfast is ‘becoming an event again, rather than a ‘grab-and-go’ meal’.
In the UK the popularity of supper clubs continues unabated. The majority of Silent Customer respondents would love to try one out, but it is clear from the individual responses that many already have, and have enjoyed the experience.
Here are three, typical, enthusiastic responses.
“I would absolutely LOVE to do this, we always try to support local independent restaurants so it would be fabulous to have an evening such as this available to us.”
“I already attend a venue promoting local producers almost exclusively from within 50 miles on a weekly basis.
I have attended many and booked them in other countries when on holiday, too! I seek them out!”
“We did have one in the village, which served south east Asian food. But then someone reported them to the Trading Standards people for not having a kitchen that passed trading standards, even though the cooking eas excellent, and it got closed down. The cost of compliance with red tape can be quite prohibitive for small companies.”
Perhaps we increasingly value the quality time we spend relaxing with friends and family because there are increasing demands on the rest of our time.
According to Waitrose:
- Nearly 70% of us feel that the pressures of modern life have increased over the past five years.
- Close to half are working longer hours
- Around four in 10 regularly check work emails in personal time.
- 60% of us get up earlier than we used to.
Food and drink providers have to respond to this – below we give some of the approaches.
Amazon Go and Ocado
In the USA Amazon is at the technological forefront in terms of providing the solution with the public opening, on January 22, 2018, of Amazon Go.
Customers enter an Amazon Go shop, collect what they need, and….go! There are no checkout queues, either automated or manned by humans. Currently located in only four American cities, these stores harness together a range of computer technologies and algorithms and connect to customers via their smartphone. The concept for Amazon Go has involved overcoming all kinds of challenges – for example, there was confusion between customers of similar body build – but the technology is now there and it is only a matter of time before other stores are rolled out across the continent and thence to us, across the pond.
Ocado – the no-store supermarket – is also on the up. A couple of landmark deals with international supermarkets have persuaded investors, according to the FT, that the company is a ‘technology play’, rather than a ‘marginally profitable delivery firm’. Investors were repaid with a 98% return.
Another solution to the customer’s lack of time is the concept of the meal kit. Decades ago the cake mix manufacturer, General Mills, developed a line of cake and cookie mixes under the brand name, Betty Crocker. Initially the mixes required the simple addition of a liquid, but research showed that this was just too easy. Customers, mostly mothers, felt somehow cheated of the right to claim any credit as cook…really as nurturer.
The psychology behind today’s meal kit is not dissimilar. Deciding what to cook, choosing a recipe and evaluating it takes up time which a frantic parent, or busy executive doesn’t have. Selecting, queuing, and fetching ingredients is also time consuming…even just finding ingredients in your own larder can sometimes be a chore. Meal kits cut out all of this, and still allow the meal producer to claim the credit of the almost-professional chef.
Cookbooks offering time-saving recipes are not new. Edouard de Pomiane first published his classic, Cooking In Ten Minutes, in 1939.
This blog, Saucy Dressings, which has been going since 2014, customises all its recipes: to use packet or cup sizes (cutting down on time spent weighing and measuring); to reduce preparation time; to cut down on time spent washing up; and to provide imaginative ideas for transforming leftovers into a sort of instant, bonus meal.
But now magazines and book publishers are all carolling about recipes of ‘three ingredients or less’, or ‘instant pot obsession’, or ‘fix it and forget it’. In the frenzy are we losing ancient skills – how to confit, how to butterfly, jam and chutney making…using wooden spoons….? This is a shame as many of these ancient skills would have a time-saving factor and enable families to spend time together preparing for the week’s meals on the weekend when they have the time to enjoy cooking together rather than in a panic on an evening.
New Markets – wine and venison
Wine is finding new markets. The main wine producer in India, Sula, is targeting the fast-growing English-speaking middle class, romancing them with clever marketing (dance-music festivals) and higher sugar content – the typical Indian consumer has a sweeter tooth than the norm. But once this market has developed a taste for wine, it may begin to look elsewhere for more sophisticated pickings. Follow this link for some recommended Indian red wines on Saucy Dressings.
Fuelled by climate change, lessons learnt from teething problems….and of course, Brexit, English sparkling wine is going from strength to strength. Follow this link to learn about some of the best.
But, on the other hand, wine is also losing market share, albeit slowly, to other drinks – beer, whisky, infusions – in terms of food pairing…. but the size of wine glasses, meanwhile, is on the up. An average wine glass (according to Cambridge University researchers) holds 450ml – seven times larger than a Georgian wine glass.
Meanwhile, again in the UK, the British are discovering a liking for venison – in 2015 sales increased by 400%! Vension (as well as muntjac) is high in iron and vitamin B2; and low in carbs – healthier for you than beef, pork and chicken. And this new penchant is likely to be encouraged by the removal of subsidies for lamb, beef and pork production post-Brexit.
Four big ‘middle men’ companies in the United States are facing difficulties. The ABCDs of agribusiness: ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus all based their success on their superior ability to foretell harvests and stocks retained. They then had the financial muscle to manage their own massive stockholdings with states and multinationals relying on them for a stable supply of staples. The ABCDs made money on logistics – ships, lorries and port services.
No longer. The ABCD combined turnover in 2013 was $351 billion; in 2018 it was $260 billion, with profits also significantly hit.
Why has this happened? One factor is a persistent world glut of basic crops. But there are other, more significant, long-term factors. Farms are getting larger, and investing in their own impressive warehousing. Farmers are becoming more tech-savvy; they’re using phone apps to provide market information, especially on prices. Now there are digital marketplaces such as Farmlead where farmers can find buyers who will pay the optimum. Farmlead now covers 12% of the grain market in Canada and the US.
In the short-term however the dealers’ business is likely to pick up due to Trump’s trade wars. China now seeks alternative suppliers of soy – it’s looking to Brazil. American farmers needs to find new, internal markets for soy, so the dealers have found a new role.
A new role perhaps, but it’s likely also to be short-lived. There is the shift in distribution channels described about, as well as new competitors entering the supply market. China is investing heavily in Latin America and in Africa. Glencore Agriculture (originally a Dutch trading company) together with two Canadian pension funds is investing farming and logistics around the Black Sea. Singapore-owned Olam is now big in spices and nuts coming from Asia and Africa.
So – some possible macro trends:
- Farms will continue to grow in size, espousing vertical integration by investing in storage facilities…and perhaps into logistics; and distribution channels will change as they begin selling directly to smaller wholesalers.
- The US will lose some of its share of the world food market; other, less developed areas, with the help of foreign investors, will gain. Competition will keep food prices stable.
According to The Food People, the cuisines with the highest market appeal and evidence of trend setting influence are:
- British – see Dinner At the Kitchen Table
- Indian – see Vineet Bhatia and his Indian Food Revolution
The lowest were west African; Mexican-Korean; and Peruvian-Japanese.
Ingredients on the up are:
- Sourdough – see our interview with café chain owner, Rob Broadbent, to find out why this bread, when made properly, is so popular.
- Kefir, and other fermented foods (from Gourmet Insider)
- Modern Mexican
- Apple cider vinegar
- Hemp seeds (from The Daily Meal)
- nuts – Spanish researchers have found that they help improve fertility in men!
But other, more traditional ingredients are certainly holding their own.
- Waitrose’s most liked image on Instagram was ….one of fluffy baked potatoes.
- Saucy Dressings’ most popular post, with over 30,000 views, was All You Need to Know About Swiss Chard.
- And Felicity Cloake, reporting in New Statesman, says “back on the sales floor [at Covent Garden Market] Justin Denyer of Covent Garden Supply Imports, posing in front of a coroneted ‘Avo King’ display stand, tells me he didn’t even sell avocados four years ago; now they make up a third of his business.”
Silent Customer, Food Provenance, Allergies and Ethics, UK Restaurant Customer Survey December 2018
The Economist, December 15-21, 2018
The Economist, The World In 2019
Global Food and Drink Trends 2019, Mintel
Waitrose Food and Drink Report 2018-19
Food and Beverage Trends 2018 by The Food People
Foodism Magazine, various issues over 2018
The Daily Meal