9th November | Sally Haywood back

Our hot takes on the 2021-22 Waitrose Food & Drink report

From the year that brought us pesto eggs and pasta fries, we take a look at other key trends from Waitrose’s annual Food & Drink report. The report offers a sneak peek into how consumer habits and trends shifted as we emerged from the pandemic.

Waitrose’s CEO, James Bailey, calls it the “homebody economy”. Characterised by at-home gatherings, TikTok recipes and an increase in environmental and health-conscious shopping choices, as well as a sharp rise in online shopping, this model has become “an accepted – and popular – way of living”, Bailey says.

Here’s some hot takes from this year’s review:

We became a nation of homebodies

Okay, so spending more time in our homes wasn’t exactly by choice initially, but it turns out that this eventually became a source of enjoyment for us. The past 19 months has seen people “fall back in love” with their homes and dedicate more time to improving their cooking skills.

As if we weren’t already thinking about food approx. 99% of the time, the pandemic has made 41% of respondents agree that food is more important to them than it was pre-pandemic, while 53% enjoyed spending more time at home.

Dinner parties are back on the menu

According to Waitrose, a quarter of all respondents said they planned to host more dinner parties post-pandemic than they did before. Apparently, we’re opting for smaller, more regular gatherings than before, because who really needs an occasion to indulge in delicious food and drink?

We’re also out to seriously impress when it comes to hosting; shoppers have increasingly looked to more premium, better-quality ingredients when entertaining guests at home. It also seems we’re embracing every chance to celebrate as sales of champagne were up 40% year on year.

Viral food trends

Pesto eggs, feta pasta and *that* tortilla wrap technique took the internet by storm thanks to viral videos from TikTok. Turns out we weren’t just mindlessly scrolling for hours but we were actually learning new cooking techniques (go us!)

Three-quarters of all 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed said they had looked to TikTok or Instagram for recipe inspiration this past year. And across all age groups, nearly one-third of people said they regularly looked at social media for food inspiration.

This year also demonstrated the huge impact viral trends have on our spending habits, for instance October saw the rise in ‘pasta fries’ recipes, which require the must-have appliance of the moment – an air fryer. This in turn contributed to a 400% rise in sales of air fryers at John Lewis.

Planet-conscious shoppers

One of the biggest trends this year was eco-friendly shopping. Topping our list of concerns with regards to the planet was food waste, packaging and meat consumption. According to the report, three-quarters of people have tried harder not to waste food this year. Additionally, 77% said they were concerned about the amount of plastic in their grocery packaging, while 71% said they have tried to reduce the amount of packaging they take into their homes.

This was also evident in the continuous decrease in meat consumption and the rise of plant-based alternatives. Waitrose called this the ‘5:2 diet’, in that people opted to eat veggie for five days a week and go for an animal-based protein on the other two days.

Waitrose also predicts some of the biggest trends of 2022 will include potato milk and climatarianism (a type of diet focused on reducing one’s carbon footprint).

Variety is the… booze of life

Variety was the keyword for those who enjoy a glass or two at the end of the day. The retailer found that we became “more adventurous” with our drink choices, as well as more likely to splurge in better-quality products.

Sundowners and aperitifs are on the rise (Aperol sales were up 148%), while people swapped their classic wine choices for new niche wines from around the world. It’s also clear that we’ve embraced the celebratory mood since restrictions lifted – sales of large-format bottles such as magnums rocketed by 87% since last year’s report. Looking ahead to next year, among other trends for 2022, Waitrose also predicts the return of pre-batched bottled cocktails.

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