Food Trends in Post Pandemic Times
Expect the Unexpected
Irene Millar in Conversation with Lucas Glanville, Culinary Leader and Mentor, and Sustainable Ethical Food Management Expert.
Lucas Glanville is my go-to guy for all things food related. He has a wealth of experience on all aspects of the Food and Beverage industry garnered through a cooking career spanning 37 years in Australia, SE Asia and the UK.
My previous conversations with Lucas have produced articles on food waste, procurement and sustainability. So, I was curious to explore his views on the food industry today, against the backdrop of two years experiencing a global pandemic and a war in Europe. This conversation was very different from previous ones, and what transpired from it echoes that we have all adapted as a result of our changed reality.
Whilst food is a basic necessity for everyone, for many of us it represents so much more. Family celebrations, social gatherings, and special occasions are all enhanced by the inclusion of food. Places we visit become a richer experience as a result of the local food we taste there. Chocolate and churros in Spain, or chicken rice in Singapore, evoke memories of the taste, sights and smells, as well as the family and friends we were with at the time.
The world is very different today, and we are in uncertain and unchartered territory. This is changing people’s behaviour and choices across a broad-spectrum of topics, including food.
His number one trend recognises that a large number of people have less disposable income now as a result of reduced income, and/or, increasing costs. Value for money is very much a consideration when choosing to dine out. Everyone has their own criteria for deciding if something is value for money. For Lucas, value has to combine food quality, great service and a comfortable environment together with delivering the wow factor. Dining out has to offer that something extra that you don’t get at home.
The periods of lockdown robbed us of our social interactions and memorable experiences. As we escape from confinement, people are craving authentic encounters. When you are dining out, you want your meal to be the best cuisine you have ever tasted. You don’t want it to be something that you could replicate at home, or buy from the supermarket.
For those of us able, and willing, to travel at the moment, given all of the additional requirements, restrictions and risks, the journey has to be worthwhile. Having the opportunity to relish an authentic experience is the pearl in the oyster for travel. For Lucas, currently in Australia, a trip to Malaysia would need to incorporate feasting on Hawker delights. Savouring all the unique flavour profiles and spices whilst soaking up the atmosphere would make the journey worth the effort.
I agree with this sentiment, when I travel home to Scotland, I look forward to a traditional Scottish breakfast with fried potato and soda scones, along with my eggs, beans, vegetarian sausage, mushrooms and leeks. It may not sound, or taste, as exotic as Malaysian food, but it’s something that I really enjoy when I am visiting home. It reminds me of my childhood and my Dad cooking Sunday breakfast.
Health and wellness is another current key trend. We’re emerging from lockdowns and many of us are looking to shed those covid kilos by focusing on eating more healthily. Many of us have had direct experiences with the pandemic and are all too aware of the fragility of our health. Higher hygiene standards have become embedded into our DNA and we are now more interested in learning about what we are eating. Plant based food is becoming mainstream, Meatless Monday is growing in popularity, and cell-based agriculture offers a way to reduce the impact of the meat industry on our environment. This is a trend that has the potential to reshape the food industry both now and into the future.
The environmental aspects of our food have seen a growing awareness, and this trend is likely to continue for some time. People are now more aware of the carbon impact of food miles and the benefits of seasonal food. The ethics and sustainability of where our food is sourced, and how it is produced, are gaining in popularity. More people questioning the use of pesticides and choosing organic and free-range produce.
Pre-Covid 19, luxury equated to bigger, better, more. As a result of our experience with Covid 19, luxury has been redefined. Time, and taking time to enjoy with family and friends, is becoming widely recognised as a luxury commodity, along with an embracement of the concept that less is more.
Traditionally, five-star establishments were booked months in advance to celebrate occasions. More recently, pre-pandemic, people would frequent these venues for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They became part of everyday life, rather than being reserved for special occasions. As we slowly exit from our lockdowns and restrictions, we are gravitating more to small restaurants where we feel that we belong to a community and where we are made to feel welcome.
We are adapting to a life with less. Less travel, less eating out, less disposable income, less consumerism. Our consumption patterns are changing. Mediocrity is no longer acceptable; quality rather than quantity is what is being demanded.
Lucas notes that everything, including food, moves through cycles. We’ve had time to reflect on what’s important during lockdown and what’s re-appearing and becoming more appreciated are traditional values, such as authenticity and value. These values are evident across small family owned and run, cafes, bars and restaurants which have become the backbone of many of our communities during lockdowns.
In his 37 years of cooking, Lucas has experienced trends come and go. His insights during our conversation were not what I expected him to share. However on reflection, not unexpected, as the key trends he identified; value for money, authenticity, health and wellness, environment, taking time to enjoy food and conversations, are all qualities that he exudes.
While our conversation may ostensibly have been about food, in truth what we spoke about was life, and the experiences we gain from travel.
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