F&B Hotlist
Bringing new meaning to seasonal food

We make 250+ decisions about food every day and time has a huge impact on these. This month we are investigating how time influences our F&B preferences beyond breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As people’s lifestyles change, new meal-times are emerging and growing in popularity. Over the past 10 years searches for ‘brunch’ have increased 5x (Google Trends, 2018). This breakfast-lunch hybrid is the occasion meal of the moment, a chance to get together with friends over avocado toast, and indulge in a mimosa, no matter what time it is! Recent Household research reveals brunch is the #1 Instagrammable meal, another reason for its growing popularity in a world where Instagram has changed the way we eat.

TAPPING INTO THE RHYTHM OF FOOD

It’s not just throughout the day that our food habits change, but throughout the year too. Tastes typically vary as follows – people seek lighter, colder dishes such as salad in summer, and crave warmer, heartier dishes such as soup in winter. Beyond these obvious preferences, interest in different dishes varies throughout the year. The Rhythm of Food analyses weekly Google Trends data across the years to investigate seasonal trends. From the spike in pumpkin popularity around Halloween and Thanksgiving, to a taste for frozen yoghurt in summer and the ice cream alternative’s growth in recent years.

We only need to think back to recent Halloween for memories of pumpkin carving to illustrate the significant role food plays in our yearly rituals. Now into the Christmas season, brand’s holiday adverts reveal more shared food traditions. Tesco’s 2018 Christmas campaign celebrates the many ways customers ‘do Christmas’ featuring the individual quirks and rituals of UK families.

A RETURN TO SEASONAL’S SIMPLE ROOTS

Although the Christmas adverts suggest otherwise, eating seasonally is more than just turkey and mince pies. As awareness grows of the environmental impact of our diets, seasonal eating is an ethical aspiration for many. However, thanks to year-round product availability at supermarkets, our diets are more exotic than ever, making a return to strictly seasonal produce feel limiting.

Freedom from import costs mean seasonal eating is a budget-friendly solution. However this is often elevated to a luxury choice, from high end restaurants taking pride in chef’s seasonal menu items to the resurgence of farmers’ markets’ popularity. Seasonal produce supplier Natoora’s latest London location arranges produce according to its season, with fresh at the front and a fermentation room further into the store. The minimal, cement-heavy interior elevates products and the store looks more like an Aesop than a traditional supermarket.
There is opportunity for food brands to democratise seasonal eating. One in three Brits do not realise that certain produce tastes better in certain months and three quarters find it hard to teach children about the seasonality of food (Grow It Yourself, 2017). Supermarkets can educate customers about seasonal availability as part of the wider conversation on provenance. Friendly drinks brand Innocent’s Sow & Grow campaign encourages children to grow vegetables in their classrooms to learn more about seasonal eating throughout the year.

BRANDS ARE CATERING TO CUSTOMERS’ LIFE MOMENTS

From time of year to time of life, brands continue to use customers’ ages and life stages to target F&B products and experiences. Child-friendly hospitality experiences are growing up, looking beyond colourful rooms and cartoon characters to create spaces that both kids and parents can appreciate. Guests climb a bright yellow staircase to enter Aranya Kids Restaurant in China, but the mature design inside focuses on integrating spatial variation to satiate kid’s curiosity and encourage the spirit of play at any age. The space acknowledges the importance of designing for shared mindsets rather than stereotyping to fit traditional demographics.

Food plays an important role when we celebrate life stages, brands are responding to this by creating service-driven offers whatever the occasion. Taco Bell recently launched a party service, responding to customer desire to celebrate at the cult eatery, from birthdays to weddings. Customers can reserve a table and will receive themed decoration packs and party favours to give to guests.
Some brands are basing their offers round alternative times in customers’ calendars. Customers of Moon Cycle Bakery create a personal profile to receive monthly dessert deliveries coinciding with their menstrual cycle. The service recognises that many women crave sweet treats during this time, cleverly monetising this regular event in around half of the population’s monthly calendar. The brand’s mission to help individuals ‘redefine their time of the month’ mean it’s not just selling desserts, it’s selling an emotional benefit.
It’s no secret that customers are seeking personalised experiences, and this extends into F&B. Brands can tap into customers’ calendars to cater to changing tastes and inspire new preferences. By thinking beyond traditional seasons and life moments, food-brands can help customers celebrate both one-off excitements and everyday moments.
Images courtesy of Rhythm of Food, Wallpaper, Wutopia Lab, Moon Cycle Bakery

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