Food trends for 2018 – what do customers want?

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pie chart: what do consumers want in their pie?
Pie chart: what do consumers want in their pie?

Related tags: Eating, Indian cuisine

Diners are more willing to go solo and dine out alone, with more than three quarters of those asked in new research claiming to find eating without a partner socially acceptable.

Research carried out by Waitrose’s Food and Drink Report 2017–18​ showed 78% of consumers believed going it alone in a pub or restaurant was now more socially acceptable than it was five years ago.

Of those asked, 9% had eaten alone in the past week, 19% in the past month and 26% in the past year, however, 46% claimed they had never eaten out alone.

Some of the reasons for dining out alone included the belief that it was no longer a taboo (75%), restaurants had become more ‘single-person-friendly’ (46%), mobile devices provided a source of entertainment (23%) and it was an opportunity to meet new people (6%).

“It may also be that people feel more comfortable eating alone,” the report said. “There is no companion to judge your meal choice; be it a burger with the lot or a towering plate of spaghetti – you can tuck in, unabashed.

‘Unwanted disturbances’

“A fifth of the people we surveyed say that they eat alone to be free from unwanted disturbances.”

Respondents to the survey were also quizzed on burger etiquette and it showed most consumers were willing to eat burgers with their hands. However, this changed from 53% who would do so at home to 38% who would do so in a pub or restaurant.

More consumers are also conscious about food waste, with an uptick in diners requesting a doggy bag to take home if they had not finished what was on their plate.

“As consumers, we increasingly like to ensure that food goes in our mouths and not in the bin – it’s all part of our unrelenting focus on value,” said the report.

Some 7% of respondents said they now asked for a doggy bag when eating out, whereas they would not have done five years ago.

Yet, a shocking 44% of those asked said they had never asked for a doggy bag in the past and would not ask for one now.

Pie filling preferences

When asked about pie filling preferences, 56% of respondents said they would order a beef pie, 36% chicken, 5% vegetarian, 2% venison and 1% would opt for ‘other’.

On the side of their pies, consumers wanted chips (46%), mash (24%), mushy peas (8%) or baked beans.

However, some health-conscious diners wanted vegetables (7%) and just 2% said they ate salad with their pies.

Waitrose pie chart with sauce

Interestingly, 40% of women said they would choose to have gravy with their pies, compared with just 28% of men.

Other food trends set to rock the culinary world over the next 12 months include Indian street food, particularly grilled, smoked and seared dishes without the heavy sauces familiar in traditional takeaways.

See what’s on the menu for consumers below:

  • Indian street food:
    Say ‘namaste’ to tapas-style Indian street food. Forget heavy sauces and chicken tikka masala, this trend is about smoked, grilled or seared delicacies, such as scallops in pickled ginger.
    Food trucks selling puris stuffed with zingy vegetables and drizzled in chutney could become a common sight. The cuisine lends itself to hybrids, such as spiced burgers or lamb keema tacos. It’s Indian food like you’ve never seen it.
  • Japanese ‘dude food’:
    The light end of the Japanese food spectrum – such as miso and noodle soup – has already had its moment in the spotlight. Now it’s the turn of the indulgent end. Gutsy sharing dishes favoured in the country’s izakaya bars are set to become a big thing. Whether it’s yakitori-skewered chicken or deep-fried tofu in broth, the trend will combine the hearty ‘dude food’ of southern US states with the unctuous, rich and surprising flavours of after-hours Tokyo.
  • Fourth meal:
    Breakfast, lunch and dinner are so old hat. There is growing evidence that we are starting to squeeze a small, fourth meal into our daily routine. This is not about gluttony; rather it is about adapting our eating schedules to our busy lives. If dinner’s particularly early one evening, why not have a mini cheese on toast before you go to bed? If you’re going to the gym after work, why not have an energy-boosting salad mid-afternoon? Whether it’s a healthy snack or an indulgent treat, we expect to see more of this in the future.
  • Plant proteins:
    The demand for high-protein foods continues, and with more of us choosing a flexitarian diet, it’s no wonder there’s such a buzz around new plant-based proteins. Whether with pulses, shoots, grains, seeds, soy or even algae, everyone from tiny start-up companies to big brands is looking for clever new ways to add a protein punch.

Related topics: Food trends, News

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