How Has Your Relationship With Food Changed Over The Past Year?
Food, glorious food! What is your relationship with it? And has that relationship changed over the past year being locked in? We’ve all been there – alone with our cravings, needing comfort, deserving a reward, wearing stretchy waistlines!
On Monday’s RISE, we made a meal of it – chatting with Barb Stuckey, President and Chief Innovation Officer at Mattson and Alex Hardy, Regional Director, Consumer and Market Intelligence at General Mills. We dished up rich discussion around food innovation from a business and consumer perspective, how those innovations have been impacted by the pandemic, which are here to stay and the trends we may see continuing.
As you know by now, we like to dig a little deeper in RISE – AND SHINE. So this week, we’re asking how you’d describe your personal relationship with food after a year of pandemic-dining? “Is that a thing,” you ask? Yes it is! We just made it up.
A Love Affair
Many of us, during a pandemic or not, do have an ongoing love affair with food. It’s usually there when you need it, it can be comforting, entertaining, and healing. What’s not to love? Well, too much of it isn’t a good thing, and most of us food lovers can attest to indulging more than usual over the past year – especially during the height of lockdown. If you’re a food lover who wasn’t one of those participating in solo charitable runs or following the exercise gurus doing online workouts, then chances are you’ll also have piled on some ‘lockdown pounds’ and the whole ‘foodie affair’ may have progressed beyond the honeymoon phase and descended into the ‘I need some space to rediscover who I am on my own’ phase.
A Love – Hate Relationship
Who amongst us doesn’t relate to this dynamic? Especially when it comes to having to prepare meals ourselves, which we’ve all been doing more of over the past year! We love eating, but we don’t love cooking. We love eating, but we’re bored with eating at home. We love eating but we hate piling on the pounds. Notice how mostly, we do love eating! Alex Hardy said one of the trends he’d noticed was that a year ago people were initially enjoying cooking more, but then pulled back from it as they became bored with having to cook 3 times a day, 7 days a week. No need for a show of hands here… we’re united on this one! As Alex pointed out, businesses have taken note of this, and commerce has responded with innovations designed to ease this burden! We have only to look at the surge in popularity of pre–prepared healthy meal kits. We can’t be certain which idea we love more – not having to decide what to make, or not having to shop for specific ingredients. Both! We love both!
The Great entertainer
Food has always had a fun factor! Whether it’s the enjoyment of trying different recipes and styles of food preparation, or the entertainment association of going out to eat with friends – a meal has always had the potential to create a sense of occasion. In the context of this past year, we should probably separate this category into ME and THEM.
Will we ever forget the sourdough and banana-bread baking phases of lockdown? Have nations ever been so united in baking experimentation? It’s safe to say millions of us around the world entertained ourselves at some point during this pandemic, by experimenting with food preparation. This increased interest in cooking seems likely to continue! Our RISE audience POLL 1 reflected that cooking from scratch is the behaviour most people (59%) will continue into the next normal.
Anita stated that “food has become activity, engagement, education and entertainment.” This is true for us as individuals but will also resonate with every parent out there who had to find ways of keeping kids entertained, engaged, and fed – all whilst working from home – but that’s a topic for another blog! For many of us, food has been a powerful aid in keeping our loved ones entertained, and constructively engaged in activity – and with each other.
A HEALTHY DYNAMIC
Barb made the interesting point that we need to define what eating healthily means. For some of us it means eating ‘clean’, and eating ‘whole foods,’ or if we’re eating packaged foods, looking for recognisable ingredients. For others, eating ‘clean’ or ‘healthily’ means clean living, and eating sustainably for our environment. One of the food-related trends that she’s noticed over the past year, is that more people are making food choices based on environmental impact. This mirrors the more mindful and impact conscious tourist behaviours we’ve seen and discussed over the past year on RISE. Our RISE audience Poll 2 indicated the majority of our viewers (71%) are eating more healthily now than they were a year ago. Does this have to do with taking a proactive approach to fighting the virus, and giving ourselves the best chance of staying healthy? Alex mentioned this as another one of the food-related trends, leading to innovation over the past year. With people recognising immunity boosting value in food, he says he’s seeing “nature and science coming together in how we look at food.”
I’m ALL ABOUT MOVING THROUGH THE STAGES
As with all these discussions, it’s possible you see a little of yourself in each of these food relationships. We may feel that our delightfully complex relationship with food contains many facets all at the same time, or some of us may feel we’ve progressively waded (or waddled) through all the different stages!
Food relationship aside, who else just can’t wait to eat somewhere other than at home? It doesn’t matter that we’ve supported our local restaurants, and mitigated our ‘kitchen fatigue’ by eating restaurant take-outs at home. That was great for a while and eased the boredom and the monotony of home cooking. It doesn’t, however, replace the thrill, entertainment value and sense of occasion that we derive from getting out there and eating out. This will surely be good news for all the publicans, chefs and restaurateurs out there who can’t wait to welcome diners back to their establishments! Bon Appetit!
A special invitation to our RISE community across the world – Save The Date!! Next Monday, April 26th, is for our very special 1st Anniversary of RISE! Join us as we celebrate how far we’ve all come together over this past year. RISE was created with you, for you, because of you – so please join us as we celebrate you – our outstanding RISE community. Some of the truly inspirational Executives in Residence we’ve featured in previous episodes of RISE will share their hopes and expectations for their businesses one year on. We are all so excited, but this RISE 1st Anniversary milestone would not be the same without YOU. See you there!
Register here to catch us live, or to watch previous episodes. Thank you for being an invaluable part of RISE.