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Britain's eating- a plate of two halves? Read our most recent food and drink trends research.


Healthy or happy? Fit or fat? Nutritional or naughty? 


Britain has a confused approach to our eating in 2024.

 

Using consumer data, social listening, and digital signals, we explore how we talk, search and chomp as consumers - and crucially what it means for how brands engage.

 

Inconsistent ingestion

We’re seeing inconsistency in people’s research interests and consumption habits related to food and drink, exposing a tension in our mindsets that has brand implications. In particular, it’s young people making choices that run contrary to their interests, as well as their understanding of health and nutrition.

 

Healthy choices are driven by science and budget

Beyond calories

On one side of the plate, we see the focus on healthy choices. However, ‘healthier’ options are no longer characterised by calorific content in the way that we’ve seen in the past. Instead, it’s increasingly about the functional composition of food, informed by science.


Symptomatic of this are innovations such as the Zoe app, which uses blood tests and other samples to give data-led insight into the impact of what we consume on our bodies.



Costly choices

However, a primary social media conversation in relation to healthy food is the rising cost of living and the inability this gives many people to make health-related choices[i].

 

In the same vein, access to tools such as Zoe come at a premium that many people can’t afford in this context. This has inspired content creators such as Emily Harrison, whose “Beat the Budget” channel and cookbook offer inexpensive healthy meal ideas. The role of social in this context is clear - inspiring people for whom such choices would otherwise be inaccessible.

 

The role of supermarkets here is also important -  we see Aldi coming top in terms of positive opinion (80%), closely followed by Marks & Spencer (79%) and Lidl (75%)[ii]. With two of the top three supermarkets being so focused on low prices it’s clear that the UK market is currently fixated on affordability to a greater extent than markers of premium quality when it comes to food decision-making. For social media, both Aldi and Lidl are known for creating conversation with their rivalry between each other as well as M&S - this has a positive sentiment majority of 34%[iii].

 

Vit-al signs

On a broader scale, we see ‘science’ championed by the consistent increase in searches for vitamins and supplements over the past five year period[iv]. Today, 44% of people in the UK report purchasing vitamins - up 15% from five years ago[v].

 

Research by Mintel suggests younger cohorts in particular are interested in this microlevel of information about what they consume, in fact 55% of under 35s would like to see the vitamin and mineral content of food and drinks listed on menus[vi].


This goes some way to explain the rise of tailor-made vitamins such as Vitl and the rise of influencers like Kourtney Kardashian’s launching functional health gummies brand Lemme, suggesting social media authority is also central to this trend.

 

We also see twice the level of positivity about vitamins and supplements in social conversation, relative to negativity, over the past year’s conversation[vii].

 


Naughty but nice

On the other side of the plate we see that, while people are engaged in nutrition, they are equally enjoying the same indulgences as we have seen historically – perhaps to a greater extent than ever. The UK population are eating 50% more takeaways than before the Covid pandemic[viii], while searches for “healthy takeaways” have been declining in the past 5 years[ix]. This demand for takeaways is particularly observed among the under 30s group, with 42% agreeing they “usually” order in or get takeaways[x].

 

Winning the takeaway trend

As of August last year, the top takeaway of choice in the UK was pizza (50%), followed closely by Chinese (48%) and then Indian (36%)[xi]. However the top takeaway brands according to positive opinions for the first quarter of 2024 reveal that burgers and fried chicken are more dominant – Burger King (58%), Pizza Hut (57%), McDonald’s and KFC (both 56%), as well as Domino’s (52%) all perform particularly well[xii] - though when we look at search data it is McDonald’s that wins out in terms of volume of search[xiii].  Conversation around McDonalds has increased 269% in the past year, while for Domino’s it’s increased 273% - reinforcing the role of these brands in our social media lives. This conversation frequently references McDonalds and Domino’s recent advertisements which seems to have irritated a lot of people! There are also frequent references to McDonalds in popular culture – mostly indicating ideas about it being a basic but comforting choice.

 

When it comes to the app services, we see searches for Deliveroo win out over JustEat and UberEats in search. In social conversation terms, Deliveroo conversation has grown 48% (10k mentions) y-o-y[xiv], while JustEat has grown 179% (34k mentions) and UberEats by 241% (25k mentions). From reviewing the sentiment of these searches people are often taking to social media to make complaints about the company as opposed to discussing it. 38% of conversation is negative about the 3 brands mentioned above, relative to 21% positivity[xv], so this seems in line with the popularity we see in the chart below. Complaints predominantly relate to the wait times for food and service of delivery drivers, though there is also mention of the frequency of illegal working practices and illegal immigrant employees.





PUTTING IT ON A PLATE

 

What do brands need to do to connect in our food landscape?

●      Health = rational. Engage around the functional benefits, framed by science

●      Treats = emotional. Engage around the situation, the people, and the habit - it’s a ritualistic and often self-deprecating conversation

●      Treats are framed by brands - make sure your brand either helps someone project identity online, or partner with brands to drive emotional attachment and join the narrative

●      Healthier choices are often framed by trust and credibility - partner with the right people to drive the belief and trust

●      Don’t market to cohorts as intrinsically healthy or indulgent - market to the needs/aspirations of people which connect with one or the other side of the plate

 

Let us know if you have any questions on this or if you want to discuss methods of keeping up to date with consumer trends.

 

 

___

[i]MELTWATER, 2024.

[iii]MELTWATER, 2024.

[iv]GOOGLE TRENDS, 2024.

[v]YOUGOV, 2024.

[vii]MELTWATER, 2024.

[ix]GOOGLE TRENDS, 2024

[x]YOUGOV, 2024.

[xiii]GOOGLE TRENDS, 2024.

[xiv]MELTWATER, 2024.

[xv]MELTWATER, 2024.

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