Waitrose & Partners’ latest Food and Drink Report lifts the lid on the biggest trends from 2018 and looks at the products expected to fill fridges in 2019.
The grocer’s managing director Rob Collins says: “Being mindful of how we live and eat has become a priority in today’s world. As we become increasingly mindful of our own health, the wellbeing of our family and that of the planet, we’re reshaping how we shop, cook and eat.”
As we enter the era of what Collins calls “the mindful consumer”, how has that impacted how we shop and what we buy?
The war on plastic
A fresh wave of environmentalism has swept across the UK consumer base, with attitudes towards single-use plastic bags, disposable plastic straws and plastic packaging all changing rapidly.
Since the now infamous Blue Planet II episode aired on the BBC at the end of last year, Waitrose says it has recorded an 800% spike in the number of questions its customer services team has been asked about plastic.
The upmarket grocer’s research shows that 60% of people use reusable water bottles more often than they did in 2017, with that figure rising to more than 70% among consumers aged 18-24.
And 88% of shoppers say they have changed how they use plastic after viewing the final episode of Blue Planet II.
Waitrose’s head of corporate social responsibility Tor Harris says: “We’ve seen a real turning point in attitudes towards plastics and packaging waste. There’s been a significant and genuine change in behaviour.”
The vegetarian revolution
One in eight Brits is now vegetarian or vegan, while a further 21% describe themselves as ‘flexitarian’ – meaning that a third of the UK population now have meat-free or meat-reduced diets.
As a result, Waitrose has expanded its vegan and vegetarian range by 60% and in May the grocer launched its first dedicated vegan sections in its supermarkets as more and more shoppers seek “meat-free inspiration”.
Waitrose head of fresh produce buying Andrew Allchurch says: “Because vegetables are taking centre stage, they need to have the wow factor.
“We’re seeing soaring demand for interesting flavours and textures, so we’re constantly trying to find the next big ingredient.”
Foods in favour
Jackfruit: The sweet but sour fruit was bang on trend in 2018, rising to prominence as a vegetarian substitute for pulled pork.
Miso: The Asian seasoning is becoming increasingly used in non-Japanese dishes – a trend that has sparked a 28% jump in sales of white miso paste this year.
Turnip: The root vegetable has experienced something of a renaissance, appearing in everything from gratin to vegetarian meatballs in 2018.
Crispy chicken skin: Whether served as a canapé, whipped into butter or crumbled over seafood, chicken skin has found its way onto plates across the UK.
Sourdough: Driven by the popularity of the brunch, sales of sourdough bread have surged by a third this year.
Aqua Faba: Another vegan replacement, chickpea water has made its way into the mainstream as a substitute for eggs in meringues or mousse.
Apple cider vinegar: Sales have spiked 60% this year amid the growing trend for fermented foods.
Kefir: A staple for many shoppers in mainland Europe, the naturally fermented drink has found its way into more British baskets this year, with sales almost tripling.
Top trends for 2019
Personalised health: The mainstream use of AI among consumers to improve their diet and general health is “just around the corner”, Waitrose suggests. Access to algorithms, computer programs, apps and voice recognition technology will allow Brits to receive up-to-date and tailored advice on how to look after themselves.
Ice cream: The dessert is “entering a new era of Insta-friendly indulgence”, according to Waitrose, as trendy parlours continue to pop up, taking influences from the street food markets of Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Supermarket ice cream sales topped £1bn in 2018 and are expected to continue rising next year.
West African flavours: Whether it is Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal or Mali, food from West Africa is “set to become the next big thing”, according to Waitrose. Dishes such as chicken yassa and jollof rice key into the growing British trends for spicy food and one-pot meals.
Getting bitter: From kale to high-cocoa chocolate, bitter food is slowly becoming more mainstream – and it is set to grow further in popularity next year.
Mixing up the cocktail: A number of different ingredients will be added to classic cocktails next year as demand for alcohol-free options increases and mixologists get more imaginative. Expect savoury additions such as pickled onions and beetroot, vegetable peel and vegan foam made from chickpea water all to find their way into our glasses.