Demanding lifestyles, driven in the main by increased prosperity are creating an increase in our 24/7 food for fuel culture.
Our eating habits continue to change and skipping traditional meals has become more commonplace worldwide as we juggle work, household chores, children, fitness and other activities with many investing less time in formal meal occasions and the associated time of shopping and prepping.
Almost 1 in 2 consumers globally say they often replace meals with a quick bite on the go.
In a recent survey, 6 in 10 European consumers stated that post-COVID, they intend to take active steps to make their nutrition healthier, and this presents an opportunity for nutritionally dense foods created using high-quality ingredients with optimised nutritional value which can provide a hybrid, between meals solution.
Consumers are looking for hybrid products between meals
The number one reason for snacking not surprisingly, is hunger. Individuals want a quick and easy way to satisfy their hunger, either in between or indeed instead of conventional meals.
Apart from hunger, individuals use snacks to relax or unwind and increasingly as a reaction to stress.
Almost half of European consumers (46%) claim their snack intake has increased in the new normal compared to previous years. Why? Mood food!
Consumers seek comfort food in challenging times and are more tempted to grab food as comfort. These changed eating patterns are here to stay, as most consumers say they plan to continue eating smaller meals as opposed to the traditional meals, even after the pandemic ends.
But conversely, with a heightened awareness around health, many wish there were healthier options in indulgent food and drinks.
Breakfast or mid-morning break
The morning is the time when people are looking for an energy supply to get them off to a good start, but 34% of consumers worldwide regularly don’t eat breakfast.
Instead, these consumers state that they look for products that give a boost to their energy levels preferring a grab a snack-on-the go as they get ready for their day.
But this audience, now more than ever, expects substitute breakfasts to provide good nutrition as a healthy start to set the tone for the rest of the day.
And with many not taking a long break during their busy day, snacking has become a way of life.
Grazing for fulfilment and energy
So how do we maintain our health and fitness with our 24/7 food for fuel culture?
When chosen carefully, small bites throughout the day can replace the nutritional value of conventional meals. 50% of consumers globally believe eating several healthy snacks is as good as eating three main meals.
Consumers are therefore increasingly looking for products to provide energy and add healthy nutritional components as well as an energy boost at various times the day with just over half of Europeans tending to buy products offering a gentle energy boost but without the negative side effect of high sugar levels.
So products with claims such as ‘slow release energy’ are very likely to increase in popularity as GI (Glycemic Index) becomes more widespread as a point of product differentiation and commonly understood.
Lunch means different things to different people
Whether it’s a lunchbox for school or work, consumers worldwide increasingly want easy but healthy lunch options with bring-from-home solutions comprising of foods that facilitate small bites throughout the day.
And with breaks often too short, consumers are looking for solutions that provide health benefits combined with speed and convenience and indeed 54% of UK adults in full time work take less than 30 minutes for their lunch.
Guilt-free afternoon munching – is it possible?
Whereas individuals used to eat three meals a day and a snack was seen as a treat, new eating habits see consumers planning snacks as an nutritious energy source.
But there is still significant guilt associated with constant snacking and this provides an excellent opportunity for the food industry to offer a wide variety of healthier options such as indulgent afternoon treats (for on-the-go or at home) with functional ingredients as well as products with a high protein focus rather than high carb.
Home cooking on the increase
45% of Europeans have cooked more since the pandemic outbreak
With individuals not being able to visit their favourite eateries, many have used the pandemic to improve their home cooking skills but here too, there has been a focus on better nutrition and quality of ingredients.
So overall, there is a clear pattern in the changes in our 24/7 food for fuel culture. Irrespective of the eating occasion, we are significantly more health aware than we were before the pandemic and seeking out healthy and nutritious foods with the added dimensions of indulgence and a treat are here to stay.