It’s been quite some time since our last blog – at least 18 months or so to be more precise. Like many of our business partners and colleagues within the food and travel industry, we have been hit hard by the impact of Covid-19. Even now, stepping gingerly back into the realms of airline meals and new high street offerings, it is being done cautiously and with the possibility of further lockdowns looming menacingly on the horizon. In addition, there can be no question that the effects of living with Covid-19 have drastically changed the face of the food industry – but is this simply a temporary blip or has it triggered change that will alter the face of modern-day eating habits more permanently?
Looking back to the very beginning of the pandemic saw a huge surge in the uptake of home cooking. Overnight people were given more time and accessibility to their kitchen and thus an opportunity to really rediscover and reconnect with food presented itself. Working from home or being furloughed suddenly provided the means to feed the soul, whether for comfort, through boredom or simply due to food supply chain issues that impacted supermarkets and meant eating habits had to change. This saw a steep decline in the ready-meal market and a surge in meal-kit subscriptions which have supported aspiring cooks on their culinary journey.
As people have grown accustomed to homeworking and with more beginning to return to the office, the ready-meal market has once again begun to re-emerge. This time however the bar has been raised. The days of poorly thought out, unambitious and cheaply made ready-meals are rapidly diminishing and instead a new wave of high-quality and free-from specialist products are emerging to fulfil a consumer gap that has seen exponential growth in the meat-free and vegan sector. We are currently working on an exciting project with Dutch company Marfo (https://www.marfo.com/) who specialise in fresh frozen meal solutions, as part of the business and NDP team for the UK seeking to create a new range of high-end meat-free and vegan frozen and ambient ready meal options for the UK market.
Plant-based food is big business, with consumers now seeking more than just veggie sausages or burgers for their palates. Indeed, insiders are predicting that this year fish alternatives will be taking the plant-based market by storm. That said, there is a definite move in focus from replicating meat products towards embracing plant-based foods as they are and championing their speciality and originality. This move by consumers towards vegetarianism and veganism has been slowly increasing over the years up to the point the UK exited the EU and Covid-19 became part of our lives. Since then the popularity and interest in plant-based foods has rocketed in line with increasing awareness of global sustainability, concerns arising from supply and demand issues and, importantly, heightened health awareness. Steve took part in this year’s Speciality Fine Food Fair at the beginning of September, presenting two talks covering food trends post-Covid and the future of food (covering for Charles Banks), including plant-based, which can be found here https://www.specialityandfinefoodfairs.co.uk/whats-on/speakers-2021#/speakers/steve-walpole-2 and here https://www.specialityandfinefoodfairs.co.uk/whats-on/speakers-2021#/speakers/charles-banks respectively.
As always we are quietly but busily working behind the scenes on both new restaurant concepts and products for the mainstream market, the finer details of which we will be happy to share with you further down the line.