Has Covid-19 affected long-term consumer eating habits?

The Covid-19 pandemic has touched all elements of our lives, and our eating habits are no exception.

There is no doubt that repeated lockdowns, panic buying and being stuck at home have influenced how we think about food. A radically different supermarket shopping experience was, for many, stressful, confusing and somewhat clinical. Compounded with a shortage of online delivery slots from their favourite supermarket, many people sought out other options, such as food recipe boxes and shopping local. Restaurant dining was reduced to takeaway-only, if at all, eliminating the sense of occasion that comes with eating out.

According to data from ThoughtWorks, two-thirds of UK consumers have embraced new food shopping habits that they plan to carry on with long-term.

What are the lasting changes to the way we think about food?

Now that life is beginning to return to "normal" (at least in the UK, at the time of writing), what are the lasting impacts on consumer behaviour regarding food habits, and will it ever return to the way it was?

Many people have experienced a fundamental shift in their home/work life with the seemingly permanent move towards remote working. Gone are the long commutes; households are now working, studying, and eating together in a way that we haven't seen for decades. Unsurprisingly, we've seen a resurgence in home cooking, with Food Navigator reporting that 91% of Brits plan to cook 'as much, or more' in 2021 than they did in 2020. For some, the combination of extra free time and reinvigorated shopping habits has led to an increased sense of adventure when it comes to cooking. Intensified by travel and restaurant dining restrictions, people have been more open to trying new things - who can forget the sourdough trend!

Key consumer behaviour drivers such as emotional and physical wellbeing were placed front and centre due to the pandemic. With rising attention on mental health and emotional wellbeing, products that can offer functional benefits are increasing in popularity as consumer awareness grows. Natural ingredients such as L-theanine and ashwagandha are being blended into products to enhance focus and relaxation.

Mindful consumption doesn't stop with mental wellbeing; increasing concerns over environmental sustainability and ethical behaviour are also driving consumer behaviour when it comes to food. Rising awareness over the environmental impact of what we eat has created a surge in the adoption of vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian lifestyles. According to research from Finder, the number of vegans in the UK increased by 40% (445,428) in 2020, with an additional 2 million intending to become a vegan in 2021. A recent report has even shown that vegans and pescatarians may be less likely to be infected with severe Covid-19.

Adapt to a changing global marketplace with Uren

At Uren, we source the highest quality ingredients globally, offering a complete end-to-end service to our customers. For more than 100 years, we've successfully helped our customers adapt to changing consumer behaviours, and we continue to do this today. Get in touch with one of our team if you're looking for help answering the demands of a rapidly changing marketplace.