Keeping abreast of consumer eating habits in the 21st century

Changes in premium pay for different meal attributes
08/05/2018 - 07:00
According to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), changing consumer attitudes towards food haven’t only impacted the way we shop, cook and dine, but the agriculture industry too.

While Brits once followed “strict” weekly routines – eating meals at 7am, noon and 5pm respectively – consumers nowadays are offered a lot more choice in both when and what they eat, which has resulted in a much less disciplined approach to meals.

Looking at changing habits and what it means for both agriculture and wider food businesses, the board said companies must stay “ahead of the curve” in terms of both understanding and adapting to changing trends.

According to AHDB, key changes include:

The rise of convenience

Long gone are the hours spent preparing a meal. Instead, convenience food has increasingly become the norm, with people reaching for ready-made and microwave meals several times a week.

The time taken to prepare and cook a main meal has halved to 30 minutes compared to 1980 – as convenience has become about ease as well as time.

Premium paid for different meal attributes

In the past, convenience food meant food in tins as it allowed people to eat fruit and veg out of season and provided easy-to-prepare meat and fish. Now, consumers want meal solutions, and are willing to pay a premium for it.

Rising popularity of international cuisine

While British food remains the nation’s favourite, popularity is waning as consumers eat more international cuisine - influenced by more travelling abroad, the rise of street food, and “social mix” of the UK population.

It has also resulted in the growth of dish-based cuisines, such as pizza and spaghetti Bolognese, as a nation seeks “interesting and different” dishes.  

Rise of food allergies

Food allergies and intolerances are more common now than they ever have been, partly due to processed, unnatural and chemical-filled foods.

With 39% of UK adults claiming to use/buy free-from food and drink, the market saw a “sharp” increase in sales last year, and was worth a staggering £718m (2017).

As such, the Board claims: “What we eat, where we eat and our attitude to food has changed markedly in the last few decades, and continues to evolve.

“it will be those players who can adapt and tap into the new trends that will be best placed to succeed.”

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