For as long as we have known, food has consistently been central to our very existence. However the way we connect with and consume food is consistently evolving. We have moved from sustaining ourselves on local produce only, to witnessing the globalisation of food, followed by the popularisation of the ‘fast food’ industry in the 1950s. This evolution has led us to today, where we see the completion of a cycle back to our more earthy roots but in a 21st century setting.
We have never been more knowledgeable and aware of what we are putting into our bodies and what harmful/beneficial impacts some foods have on us. Focus on freshness and organic produce has skyrocketed in the last decade, and during lockdown organic food sales have risen sharply and “soared by double the rate of non-organic equivalents over the past year”. Freshness is no longer a luxury, but increasingly a prerequisite to sales.
The emergence of fresh food delivery boxes in the last few years has begun to demonstrate a viable alternative to traditional shopping and cooking methods. Many well established companies now specifically cater to this desire, with some of the main players being Gousto, Hello Fresh, Mindful Chef, Simply Cook and Abel & Cole. It’s currently a burgeoning market, with Hellofresh having delivered a $45 million EBITDA in 2019. Gousto announced a 70% sales growth in August 2019 and Mindful Chef announced a 178% uplift in sales in January 2019.
This service has traditionally always found greater credence and been targeted at time-poor professionals as a practical replacement for lengthy shopping trips and recipe selection. However this subscription format also goes hand in hand with aforementioned behaviour changes we are seeing within the general population as a result of the lockdown, which opens up more markets and exciting opportunities to these companies as they seek to break into the wider population.
As well as an increased focus on freshness and organic produce, there have been a number of marked behavioural changes during lockdown that are noteworthy. As of July this year, the number of Brits who buy food and drink at online food shopping websites has inevitably increased. Those who ‘never’ do it have been decreasing, and those who do once a week/fortnight both increasing.
Whilst the latter is still behind the ‘never’ category, the trend suggests the beginning of a change to consumer habits. Other interesting statistics to note are that according to the ONS, 30% of adults in the UK were exclusively working from home at the start of July, and currently 91% of the UK's office workers would like to work from home at least part of the time. Finally, more than a fifth of Brits now cook all their meals from scratch, which is up from an eighth of people before the lockdown started. The combination of these behaviour changes this year could provide the perfect climate for fresh food subscription companies to further thrive and expand into new markets.
2020 has thrown up hurdle after hurdle, and whilst some companies were always set to thrive in this climate, others have had to react and adapt. It feels like fresh food delivery boxes are somewhere closer to the former, and time will tell to see if these trends in consumer behaviour are lasting or lockdown specific.
Watch this space for Big Cat’s fresh food box research study and white paper coming out soon!
Written by Patrick Taylor, Marketing Assistant.