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New UK eating trends: how the national food industry has transformed

21st November 2017 Print

The UK food sector is enduring a revolution. From organic nutrition to homegrown produce, recently published marketing reports have shown a massive change in what we buy and how we eat — but why? 

The rise of recipe boxes

Saving time is almost as important as saving money, and our society is always on the hunt to pocket extra minutes whenever possible — which is why our busy lives has given rise to the recipe box. Pioneered by catering firms such as Hello Fresh and Gousto, these boxes contain all of the ingredients you need to cook tasty meals, along with how-to instructions. 

For many, an alternative to waste has been a long time coming. In 2017, UK households threw away £13 billion of edible food, which makes recipe boxes — which only provide the ingredients you need for each meal — an excellent counterattack. According to analytics by Cardlytics, spending on recipe boxes grew by 64.6% in the first half of 2016, with the volume of orders increasing by 47.6%.

The secret to their success? Convenience. In 2015, the recipe box industry achieved £702 million in worldwide sales. By 2025, predictions estimate that this will rocket to £3.8 billion as the market grows in popularity and more companies emerge.

Of course, major supermarkets are already planning to outwit and dominate the recipe box market, now that they’ve witnessed its success. Tesco and Waitrose have launched a recipe kit range within their stores, and Waitrose has even promised to make them a permanent part of its range. Although, Tesco is still in the trial stage.

A boom in organic food 

While the popularity of organic food is not news, its level of growth is. The organic food industry is worth a huge £2.09 billion and the market witnessed 7.1% increase in 2016 alone. In fact, organic food and drink now represents a 1.5% share of the total UK market, according to the 2017 Organic Market Report. On a global scale, the UK’s organic market makes up 4% of the $81 billion worldwide organic sales.

Overall, 80% of consumers said they had knowledge of organic food, with 39% buying it on a weekly basis. While supermarket and independent retailers have witnessed similar rate rises (6.1% and 6.3% respectively), it’s the foodservice market that has achieved some of the strongest growth. Sales of organic food in the UK’s foodservice market rose by 19.1% in 2016 and is currently worth a staggering £76.6 million. 

Evidently, shrewd pubs, cafes, restaurants, and food outlets are picking up on this change in consumer behaviour. In order to continue to capture sales from increasingly health-conscious customers, eateries must change their menus accordingly to drive the growth of organic food. In fact, many well-known restaurants have already made the switch to organic, including Nando’s, Jamie’s Italian and McDonalds. However, as outlets change what’s on their menus, wholesalers must also adapt — and they have. Between 2015 and 2016, there were almost 25% more licensed organic wholesalers, which shows a response to the growing demand for wholesome food.

To understand why organic food is so in demand, you simply have to look online to find the droves of health-conscious articles we’re now all reading. There is clearly a drive to improve our wellbeing and fitness, and organic produce is touted as far healthier than conventionally-grown foods. 

Could this surge for pro-health, organic nutrition be due to social media influence? Possibly. As images of toned, healthy bodies litter our news feeds, we’re inspired by self-improvement. Given that organic food is often fresher, contains fewer pesticides and harbours no genetic modifications; it’s the route many people choose as part of living and eating better. With schools, universities, hospitals, and workplaces serving more organic food under the Food For Life Catering Mark, it’s clear that organic isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

Growing your own: a growing industry 

It’s not just what we are choosing to eat that is transforming. Economic dips and rises also seem to be influencing our food choices in the UK today. Ever since 2007’s recession, we’ve witnessed an increase in the number of Brits growing their own produce to battle rising food costs. In 2012, the BBC reported that almost 33% of British adults grow their own food, and in another survey, a further 51% said that they would take to the vegetable patch if food prices were to go up again.

Outside of economics, are there any other reasons behind the UK’s inclination to grow its own produce rather than pick it off the shelves? A recent YouGov report found that 77% of gardeners named eating produce that they had grown in their gardens as the main benefit of gardening. What’s more, 44% grow enough fruit and vegetable to share with their friends and family, while over 25% said that growing their own food was now a hobby.

Looking objectively, it’s clear that UK attitudes to food are shifting for multiple reasons. From health to money, changes in society play a great role in challenging what we eat and encouraging us to adapt for the better. 

This article was researched and created by leading UK compost retailer, Compost Direct.