United Kingdom

Shoppers are turning their backs on cars and cash and focusing on slow cooking and foraging for food

British families have discovered a love of foraging and home-cooking this year after the Covid-19 crisis 'fundamentally reshaped' their habits, according to a new study.

Spending more time at home, a quarter bought food online for the first time during the pandemic and families also discovered a new love for home cooking, foraging in bushes and even a love of hermit living. 

The figures come from the annual Waitrose Food & Drink report, which charts the buying and eating patterns of their customers.

Meanwhile other figures indicate the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on shoppers in other ways too, with 28 per cent of car-owners reducing the use of their vehicle in the pandemic.

British families have discovered a love of foraging and home-cooking this year after the Covid-19 crisis 'fundamentally reshaped' their habits, according to a new report from Waitrose  

Meanwhile the shops now only take about 10 per cent of its sales in cash, compared to 22 per cent pre-pandemic.  

The supermarket chain, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership chain, said customers' regular shopping and eating habits have been 'fundamentally reshaped' by the pandemic, and that families have seen a dramatic shift in attitudes to health, and mental wellbeing in 2020. 

Waitrose said it expects many trends which emerged during the pandemic to continue to grow in 2021 which included cooking for longer, Zoom cooking lessons and stocking up on Asian store cupboard essentials.

What have Brits been eating in lockdown? 

TORNADO OMELETTE

This Korean dish was huge on TikTok in the US and is now causing a storm over here. It's basically a mound of rice or noodles (or a muffin) draped in a swirly omelette. It may resemble a giant yellow Walnut Whip but it tastes sensational. Sales of its ever-flexible key ingredient – eggs – are up 22% this year.

FORAGING

This trend is a box-ticker for all families. It's healthy and fun, it keeps the children occupied, it happens outdoors and it comes with a large dollop of nostalgia. From blackberries to sloes, many of us are foraging again. UK-wide social media interest is up 89% on the year.

SLOW IT DOWN

More home working has super-charged the trend for slow-cooked meat, with searches 46% up on Waitrose.com and sales of oxtail up a hearty 258%. Slow-cooking cuts are great value, fool-proof, and can deliver deceptively fancy results.

WINTER BBQS

Al fresco eating could stick around after social distancing measures disappear. After all, we've invested in the pizza ovens, mushroom heaters and fire pits that make it so fun. For an on-trend BBQ, look to Korean and Thai cuisines.

ASIAN ESSENTIALS

Store cupboard essentials from Asia are the fastest growing of our Cooks' Ingredients range. They're as tasty as they are versatile, and have been a massive hit over lockdown. Chinese Rice Vinegar is up 194%, Mirin Rice Wine is up 188% and Japanese Rice Vinegar is up 180%.

POSH COFFEE AT HOME

Popping out for a cup of coffee has been tricky this year. So we've all become baristas at home. UK social media mentions for coffee machines are up 14%, while sales of 'bean to cup' coffee machines are up 64% at John Lewis, and coffee beans by 44% at Waitrose.

PRESERVING AND FERMENTING

This mega-trend combines three smaller trends: experimenting with techniques, reducing waste and making use of seasonal gluts of products. Preserving is where it's at right now. UK social media mentions of preserving and fermenting are up by 28%. Searches on Waitrose.com for 'pickling' are 222% higher.

ORGANIC FOOD

Provenance, animal welfare, taste and value have never mattered more. Sales from our Duchy range are up 13% in total, while sales of organic chickens are up 42% and vegetables are up 23%. Every hour we sell 375 bags of Waitrose Duchy Organic carrots from our shops or website.

BRITISH SEAFOOD

Clams, cockles, mussels and oysters are back. Sales of British seafood have tripled over the last six months. Sorry to appear shellfish, but we can't get enough of them.

VIRTUAL COOKING

We launched our virtual Cooking School in June, offering 200 interactive classes and free webinars for groups of eight. Thousands of customers have joined in, with curry nights and fresh pasta classes proving the most popular.

Almost 70 per cent of customers who shopped online during the pandemic said they expect to do so next year, even if current restrictions are lifted.

Waitrose executive director James Bailey said many changes in consumer habits had already begun to be noticed before the pandemic hit, so are 'unlikely to reverse'.

'The rise in online shopping is a good example of the pandemic really accelerating a trend which was happening anyway,' he said.

'We've had feedback from a lot of customers who previously might not have planned to use online but now had to, who have essentially been converted.

'It is obviously very early to suggest what will be permanent and stay next year, but we are confident online is an area which will continue to grow.'

The report revealed that shoppers were using their increased free time at home to cook meals that take significantly longer - with cooking becoming the new commute to help people wind down after work. 

It added that sales of meat which typically needs to be cooked slowly had increased, such as oxtail, which saw sales more than triple over the year.

Waitrose also reported customers had spent more on items which they would typically eat and drink outside of their homes.

Sales of coffee beans jumped by 44 per cent as customers were consuming coffee at home which they might typically have bought from chains near their offices instead.

Despite the UK suffering its sharpest economic drop on record following the pandemic, Mr Bailey said there was a growth in demand for luxury items because a lack of holidays or social events had given some people more money to spend on groceries.

'It was unusual because we saw double-digit growth of our essential range, which traded really well all year, but also on higher-end lines too,' he said.

'Luxury products and meals did well because people still had a desire to treat themselves during lockdown.'  

As well as foraging for fresh food, the study also found a new love for preserving and pickling as part of a revival of home cooking.

It said: 'This mega-trend combines three smaller trends: experimenting with techniques, reducing waste and making use of seasonal gluts of products.

'Preserving is where it's at right now. UK social media mentions of preserving and fermenting are up by 28 per cent. And searches on Waitrose.com for 'pickling' are 222 per cent higher.'

It comes after Lakeland's Food and Drink report found  bread-making, pizza ovens and food saving & storage made up the hottest topics of 2020 with sales up 130 per cent, 68 per cent  and 53 per cent on last year respectively. 

However products for on the go, ironing boards and covers and baking decorations all fell out of favour this year, while cooking and baking for children saw a huge rise.   

More than half of children baked a cake while over a third of adults said they had baked bread at home in the last six months.  

In recent years, as more consumers recognise freezing as one of the best ways to save food waste and guarantee freshness, freezing has become fashionable once again.   

After a pretty tough 2020, people seem determined to get to grips with the next 12 months by trying to improve their health, their finances and prepare for the year ahead by cleaning their home and batch cooking. 

Although most consumers won't be denying themselves a bit of pleasure, as the report reveals only a relatively small number are taking on the challenge of Dry January or Veganuary. 

Steve Knights, CEO of Lakeland said: 'It's safe to say that 2020 has been very different to what any of us expected it to be. With the challenges of Covid-19 and lockdowns leading to most of us spending more time in our own homes, our 2020 

'Lakeland Trends Report explores how this affected our cooking and baking habits. Our survey polled 3,000 people to discover the impact that cooking, baking and cleaning has on their lives and, along with our own customer insight, our report provides an in-depth look at the state of the nation's homes. 

'We've explored how lockdown led to many people discovering a new love of baking, the emergence of the well-being trend, the continued rise in demand for eco-friendly products (including Christmas crackers!), and much more. It's always fascinating to learn more about what makes us tick and our report explores the hot topics of 2020, as well as taking a peek at what trends we can expect to see in 2021.'

What have Brits been eating in lockdown?  

FORMATS

Consumer awareness of the ethical credentials and sheer convenience of alternative formats has never been more prevalent. Lockdown saw people reduce the number of visits they made to shops, so larger formats like bag in box were in demand and customers haven't looked back. 

Wine in cans, cocktails in post-friendly sachets and bag in box wine have all pushed the boundaries of how people expect to buy good-quality drinks. This trend will only continue as we see more innovation in the industry and more customers embracing different types of packaging than ever before.

THE OLD VS THE NEW

A year of uncertainty and change in 2020 saw us turn to old favourites. In terms of drinks, this meant we polished up our mixology skills to ensure we didn't miss out on our favourite cocktails, and we settled down for nights in with a trusty bottle of Malbec or Sauvignon Blanc. For 2021, our sense of exploring the new will be refreshed with 20 per cent of us saying we plan to continue experimenting with new drinks at home, rising to a third among 18-24 year-olds. We also expect to see a rise in popularity of lesser-known wine regions and grape varieties as well as more exotic spirits and unusual flavour combinations.

WINTER ROSÉ

Storming sales in autumn 2020 (up 57% versus last year) prove that pink is officially for all seasons. Versatile, foodie friendly and with the ability to take us straight to Provence in a sip, rosé wine had its biggest year ever last year, and this will only continue to grow in 2021.

SPRITZERS

The trend for enjoying a spritzer in a highball glass is straight from the Med - think sherry or white port, served simply with tonic and ice for a refreshing, long drink.

SHERRY

Martinis with a sherry rinse, the rise of sweet sherry and a world of food matching delights from salty cured meats to rich, indulgent desserts - sherry is seeing a steep incline in popularity. Interestingly, people seem to be rediscovering the classic or traditional styles of Manzanilla, Amontillado and Oloroso - where previously it was all about sweet cream sherries.

ENGLISH WINE

The quality of the 2019 vintage of English and Welsh wines is the best we've ever seen and this, combined  with the increase in popularity of English and Welsh reds - particularly lighter styles - make a bumper year for home-grown wine. Still wines from 2019 are in stock now, while fizz will take a few more years, so keep an eye out!

LOW AND NO

18% of us plan to continue trying more low-alcohol or alcohol-free drinks or 'mocktails' to reduce alcohol consumption, rising to a third of all 18-24 year-olds. Sales at Waitrose corroborate this trend, with low and no sales up 22% year on year. New additions include a sparkling wine, IPA and stout, broadening the range of non-alcoholic versions of our favourite beverages even further.

GRAPES

Spanish Albarino (or Alvarinho if from Portugal) is going from strength to strength, and will have its truly mainstream moment in 2021. Primitivo also shows no signs of slowing in its meteoric rise.

FLAVOURED VODKA

The growing trend for flavoured spirits, led by gin, has seen flavoured vodka become the latest spirit of choice. Without the heady botanicals of gin, it is amazingly versatile in a wide range of homemade cocktails. Fun flavours like fir, rhubarb and marmalade mean the possibilities are endless.

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