UK food and drink trends ‘fundamentally reshaped’ by pandemic

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Britons are drinking rosé all year round and firing up their barbecues in the depths of winter, according to a report on how food and drink trends have been “fundamentally reshaped” by the pandemic.

Cooking at home has even become the new commute, providing a clear separation between work time and home time, the study claims, while more than half of households have been more carefully planning recipes and meals and intend to carry on.

The annual food and drink report from Waitrose also underlines the “seismic” shift towards online shopping triggered by the initial lockdown – a trend it says is clearly set to stay.

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A quarter of consumers shopped online for food for the first time this year, while one in 10 of us now shop for food only once a fortnight, with 60% of us intending to stick to this pattern. More than half of respondents even admitted they secretly enjoyed not having to go out as much.

The Waitrose report is based on sales data from millions of purchases in store and online this year, and a poll of 2,000 adults who shop across a range of retailers.

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Waitrose’s executive director, James Bailey, said: “Our daily rituals, our attitudes towards supermarkets and the way we shop have been fundamentally reshaped by the pandemic. These changes are here to stay.”

With lockdown leading to a blurring of the seasons, shoppers are now drinking pink wine all year round, the report notes. Sales of rosé in the autumn were up 57% on last year.

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Pierpaolo Petrassi, head of drinks at Waitrose, said: “Rosé wine had its biggest year ever last year, and will only continue to grow in 2021. I’m expecting sales to be bigger than we’ve ever seen at Christmas before and up 50% at least on last year.”

Alfresco eating could also remain popular all year round, even after social distancing measures and restrictions on indoor gatherings disappear, the report claims. Britons are not only using their BBQs in the colder months but have also invested in pizza ovens, heaters and fire pits to make the outdoor experience more fun.

In other trends, sales of British seafood – including clams, cockles, mussels and oysters – have tripled over the last six months as consumers have become more adventurous in their tastes.

After panicking over shortages early in lockdown, more than half of respondents said they valued food more now than they did pre-Covid and were wasting less food while pickling and fermenting and making the most of their freezers.

“An increase in the importance of food and its power to bring us together has pushed many of us back to old-fashioned meal planning and recipes” said Martyn Lee, Waitrose’s executive chef. “Comfort and nostalgia are back.”