Why the foodservice sector should not dismiss the effects of Covid after they are over

A new report on UK trends from AI-powered food intelligence start-up Tastewise claims consumer interest in convenience / on-the-go spiked by 75{bd1a3fb8a267bf65dee3fa7bd5bef83d11dd7659b283768a0375222e95be74bd} in the three first months of the pandemic (April – June) and has remained pretty stable ever since. Many restaurants, however, have stopped on-the-go solutions, which could be disadvantageous.

On-the-go “has become a standard need to fulfil for the UK consumers,”​ Tastewise VP Marketing Ron Harnik told FoodNavigator. However, it seems that menus have only increased their on-the-go services during the pandemic, he said, meaning food service businesses risk “missing out on a high, stable consumer demand that is still relevant today”​.

The graph below shows the huge spike as foodservice sector offered more on-the-go and takeaway options. That spike dipped, but demand stayed the same. “Those that reverted back to pre-Covid menus could mean they’re missing out on an opportunity,”​ said Harnik. 

Tastewise’s analysis – based on real-time scanning of millions of social media interactions, online recipes and restaurant menus* – revealed a Covid ‘slingshot’ effect: where interest in all those trends accelerated by the pandemic such as stress relief, comfort food, immunity and gut health has slowed as the crisis has ebbed, but has still remained on a higher plateau than before.

For example, today’s restaurant industry is seeing a +115{bd1a3fb8a267bf65dee3fa7bd5bef83d11dd7659b283768a0375222e95be74bd} steady increase in menu mentions that explicitly name health benefits since right before pandemic hit (ie since February 2020), the report deep dive revealed. Consumers are more concerned about health around new years and their focus fades throughout the year, however, the pandemic has kept health top of mind for consumers as the spike in January was 49{bd1a3fb8a267bf65dee3fa7bd5bef83d11dd7659b283768a0375222e95be74bd} higher than the previous January (pre-Covid). This indicates that health is becoming even more so ingrained in consumer interest, even if it’s decreasing in popularity at the moment – it shows seasonal resilience