Everyone likes to keep up with the trends and when those trends affect your work it’s more important than ever. With three quarters of the British population now eating out every month, food and diet trends are bound to have a huge impact on the catering industry so we need to be aware of the impact of these trends on the way we work and changes we may need to make to stay ahead of the game. So, with a new year ahead of us, what better time than now to look ahead and consider the top 5 catering industry trends and changes we can expect for 2020.
1. Healthy Food Choices
Perhaps fuelled by the ever increasing use of social media, over the past few years more than ever we’ve been seeing people move towards healthier food choices. Whether following the ‘advice’ of a celebrity, jumping on the bandwagon of the latest fad or for legitimate health or ethical reasons, it’s clear that many of these specialised food and drink choices are here to stay. As an industry it’s becoming far more important for catering establishments to include these options when planning menus and creating meals.
So what are the healthy food trends to focus on?
In the dim and distant past it was really only those diagnosed with coeliac disease that avoided eating gluten, something that used to make eating out almost impossible. Fast forward a few years and by 2018 it was reported that 1 in 10 people avoided gluten in their diet 1, a figure that is likely even higher now as more people choose to eat gluten-free foods. Whether it’s just ‘following the crowd’ or for health benefits, the end result is that gluten-free is here to stay.
Another ‘free-from’ trend that is continuing in popularity is dairy-free. Again, there are some who must avoid dairy products for health reasons, but for the vast majority of ‘dairy-free’ advocates it is either due to a trend or a preference for a vegan diet. The ever growing choice of dairy-free plant-based alternatives on the market make this a fast growing sector, especially among the under 25s.
Whatever the reason, health or lifestyle, it’s clear that ‘free-from’ options are now expected by consumers and should be offered on the menu of all catering establishments.
Vegetarian and Vegan Foods – While the number of vegetarians in the UK has steadily increased by 52% since 2016, the biggest boom we’ve seen, over 104%3, is in the number of people switching to a vegan diet. Does this mean that more people are now becoming ‘animal friendly”? Partly, but it’s not just the animal cruelty issue any more that is leading people to become vegan, in addition to the associated health benefits, many are also considering the environmental impact of supporting livestock for food.
Whatever the motivation, being vegan is now just so much easier than it used to be. In 2019 we saw Greggs introduce their vegan ‘sausage’ roll and 2020 is set to see the first officially recognised vegan meal on the McDonald’s menu. So as vegan foods move more into the mainstream, the catering industry must keep up with this growing trend to continue to please consumers.
The past decade has seen a huge boom in organic food choices. According to the Soil Association report, organic products in food service increased by 7.8% from 2017 to 2018 3, a trend that is only going to continue. Boosted by the increase in vegetarian and vegan diets and the desire for fresher, less-processed foods, the use of organic ingredients is becoming more and more sought after by today’s consumers.
2) Sustainable Foods
Over the past year there’s been a lot of renewed concern about the environment, which has got people thinking about where their food comes from and the impact of the food industry.
Consumers want more transparency from food suppliers and manufacturers – they want to know what’s in their food and how it has been processed. People want foods that don’t come with a huge list of additives, so less ingredients and more wholesome foods is the key.
The desire for these kinds of foods has contributed to the increase in preference for organic foods and a desire for locally sourced produce. Foods from sustainable farming sources with higher animal welfare standards and fewer pesticides are becoming far more appealing and 43% of consumers think that a restaurant is better if organic options are on the menu 3.
3) Home Delivery Technology
Who would have thought a few years ago that we could get out our mobile phones, open an app, click a few buttons and within half an hour a freshly prepared hot meal would magically arrive at our door?
It is no longer just the local takeaway employing their own drivers, the evolution of home delivery means that we now see the partnering of well-known restaurant brands with operators such as JustEat and Deliveroo.
The competition for home delivery has just got bigger and restaurants are going to have to come up with new and innovative ways to stay ahead of the game.
For a restaurant this means considering what software to use to keep track of orders and deliveries and the best equipment to ensure the quickest possible arrival of hot, appetising, great quality food to the customer. Thinking again about sustainability, packaging for home delivery foods needs to be reusable, recyclable or compostable to stay ahead of consumer demands.
4) The Impact of Brexit
Brexit, Brexit, Brexit – have you heard it enough yet? And still no one really knows quite what the full impact of Brexit will be on our future life in the UK and especially no one can really be sure how it’s going to affect businesses. So, what should we be prepared for when Brexit does happen?
Supply Chain – With 30% of our food imported from the EU 4 we can expect changes in customs requirements to potentially cause delays at the French ports. Disruption to fuel supplies could also affect the delivery and availability of some foods. Hopefully if this does happen, it will only be in the short term, but the knock-on effect could mean that we’ll see price increases for some ingredients. This could be a great opportunity to look at using more local produce and come up with creative menu ideas to use seasonally available foods.
EU Workers - The catering industry is a sector that has always relied heavily on workers from EU countries, so what does the looming Brexit date mean for non-UK citizens?
Those currently in the UK can apply to stay and continue to live and work here as they’ve always done. After Brexit some people may choose to return to their home country, but realistically we may not see that big a change in the current workforce. However, the last couple of years have already seen a dramatic fall in the number of EU nationals entering the UK for work 5, so it’s possible that we’ll be seeing less staff in the catering and hospitality industries coming from EU countries in the months and years ahead.
5) Food Labelling
Brexit! Yes, again we have to mention Brexit, as leaving the EU will lead to changes in food labelling. We will no longer see EU logos on food products produced in the UK, instead labels must state the UK as the country of origin. Of course this will all take time to be put into place and there is a proposed transition period for any labelling changes.
Although there are nearly 2 years until it comes into force in October 2021, Natasha’s Law is one that everyone in the catering industry should be aware of and prepare for NOW.
This law was named after Natasha Ednan-Laperouse who tragically died in 2016 following a severe allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette. The new regulation means that a full list of ingredients and allergens must be provided on all direct sale foods that are packed on the premises. Food allergies can be severe, so it’s important as an industry that all catering establishments take positive steps to ensure their customers are fully informed about ingredients. Improving food and menu labelling ahead of the implementation date is a step in the right direction.
Some food trends come and go, but in our ever-developing world of social media influences, environmental awareness and advances in technology there are some trends and changes that are here to stay, so it’s time to make sure we’re ready for the challenging but exciting culinary year ahead.
Blythman, J. (2018) ‘Not just a fad: the surprising, gut-wrenching truth about gluten’, The Guardian, 7 Aug.
Wood, Z. (2019) ‘Plant-based milk the choice for almost 25% of Britons now’, The Guardian, 19 July.
Soil Association (2019) Organic Market 2019.
House of Lords European Union Committee (2018) Brexit: food prices and availability.
Wood, V. (2018) ‘Number of EU workers entering the UK falls by 95% hitting businesses’ The Caterer, 13 August.