As temperatures in the UK rise and more and more people are vaccinated, friends and family are meeting for summer get-togethers, picnics and garden parties. No industry has been left unchanged by last year’s pandemic, and that includes food trends, with those in the business noting some interesting new developments. If you’re in the catering or food service industry, here are the top 4 food trends to look out for this summer.

Convenient picnic items

After many cold, dreary months in lockdown, the public is craving warm summer afternoon spent outdoors. And that means a picnic. If you’re a caterer or café offering home deliveries, the idea is to offer things that are quick, easy and picnic-ready. Vacuum sealed grazing foods and snacks are ideal, but watch out – there’s also a growing consumer preference for low-waste, low-plastic packaging, too.

According to experts at First Food Machinery, “The development of sustainable, innovative packaging has proven a new branding opportunity for food businesses. It’s possible to distinguish yourself from the competition whilst also playing a hand in environmental issues by switching from plastics to recycled papers, cardboard and other easily biodegradable packaging that is also food-safe.” While thinking of creative ways for your customers to transport and store your wares (i.e. hygienic single serve portions that don’t need to be refrigerated), spare a thought for the environment and opt for recyclable packaging.

Hop on the veggie bandwagon

A reported 7.2 million people in the UK are vegetarian or vegan, with another 6.6 million making the resolution to go meat-free in 2021. There’s no doubt that vegan and vegetarian food is having a moment right now, and plant-based foods are increasingly popular amongst those looking for a healthier, more ethical and more sustainable option. But that doesn’t mean that people are happy to settle for boring bean burgers and carrot sticks!

The eco-friendly food trend favours the liberal use of “wonky” produce that cuts down on food waste, local fruit and veg that hasn’t incurred enormous carbon miles to transport, and meat-free options like tofu, jackfruit, tempeh, and beans and legumes of every stripe. No matter your business niche, it’s a good idea not to ignore the veggie market, and have more than one meat-free option on the menu.

A commitment to health

With one in five UK adults being obese and many more overweight, and with increasing concern over the preponderance of “ultra-processed foods” in our daily diets, consumers are choosing healthier, more wholesome options. In tandem with the trend for more vibrant, plant-based convenience foods, many people are actively reading labels this summer and opting for unrefined, low-salt, low-sugar, fresh foods that are good for the body without compromising on taste. 

Shoppers are arguably more health-conscious today than ever before, and are more discerning when it comes to natural, simple food. Today, fully half of all calories consumed in the country come from heavily processed and nutritionally suspect foods. This has prompted many people to take a good hard look at their diets – and take a step towards losing any lockdown weight. Folllowing in the footsteps of countries like Canada and Brazil, the UK may soon find itself actively discouraging ultra-processed foods, which means there’s an opportunity for those in the food industry to get ahead of whole food public health initiatives and brand themselves as purveyors of quality, healthful alternatives.

Eco-conscious options

As in other industries, consumers are now demanding more transparency, accountability and ethical business practices from the companies they buy from. The key is to offer something that feels like part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. With climate change being top of mind for many consumers, the idea is to rebrand as a company that is genuinely sustainable and good for the planet. That means second-hand food machinery, local suppliers, organic foods and reduced packaging.

Today, no business can afford not to have a purpose. Almost all major environmental and ethical issues converge in the choices people make about what to eat. In other words, it’s a golden opportunity for those in the food industry to step up to the challenge and offer products that are about more than just profit. Consider early Fairtrade champion Divine Chocolate, who have put ethics at the heart of their business. Women-led and co-owned by the cocoa farmers, the company is “as much a business model as a social mission.”

With health, environmental responsibility and a return to simpler, more intimate ways to enjoy food together, there is arguably one main trend underpinning all of the above. This summer, food trends in the UK are all about truly good food – and that means good for the body, good for business, and good for the planet.