A glimpse of what lies ahead for Irish Foodies in 2021

Considering that this time last year we had no idea whatsoever that 2020 was going to turn out the way it did, projecting food trends, and the development/evolvement of same, might seem like a fool’s game. That said, lessons have been learned and one multi-stranded industry – tipped on its head and turned into a whiter shade of pale – that is going to change even further as 2021 progresses is food, beverage and hospitality. We have listed some of the adjustments in food moods that will take place this year and our advice is this: be prepared to evolve. 

FEWER RESTAURANTS

Can we start with the bad news? We’d rather not but you need to know. There were many business-model casualties in 2020, and one of these was the stop-start-stop-start of restaurants. We have seen our favourites shut up shop for months at a time, seen them pivot from physical to virtual, seen them serving food at a table to placing it into a box, seen chefs change tack from panache to getting the job done as professionally as possible under trying circumstances. Because of this, there will, inevitably, be fewer restaurants to visit in 2021, and in turn, higher menu prices. Experts predict it won’t be until 2024 before the industry begins to fully recover from the fallout of Covid-19. The challenges are twofold: remaining in business will need acute business skills while creating a satisfactory and engaging social experience – without forgetting about health and safety – will require no small level of ingenuity. 

CELEBRITY ALCOHOL

Ingenuity arrives in all shapes and sizes, of course, and when it comes to branding and branching out you have to hand it to well-known personalities. While some celebs continue to bring out fragrances (from Madonna and Beyoncé to Britney and J-Lo, we have lost count), others launch their very own alcohol range, and that’s about to get much more obvious this year. Take your pick from Kylie Minogue (rosé), Cara Delevingne (prosecco), Snoop Dogg (gin), Idris Elba (champagne), Cameron Diaz (vegan-friendly wine), Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (tequila), Bob Dylan (whiskey) and Brad Pitt (pink champagne Fleur de Miraval). And that’s just wine/spirits – the list of branded/owned breweries is a very long one.

SLOW FOOD CONTINUES

One of the many changes to our lifestyle in 2020 was a return to the kitchen. What that meant was manifold, but one of the most fundamental in food and associated health terms was having the time (as well as the inclination) to actually think about what you were going to eat. Gone was the rush from work to home, stuck in traffic with your stomach grumbling and wondering what you were going to have to cook very quickly for dinner. Thanks to you-know-what-19, there was food for thought and thought for food. 

THE RETURN OF COOKBOOKS

With spending so much time at home and becoming ever more adventurous in what you’d like to experiment with food-wise, it’s no surprise that old-fashioned cookbooks are being pulled off the shelves to be explored and thumbed through. There’s another reason, though, and it’s to do with the word ‘thumb’. Yes, it’s all very well scrolling this and swiping that, but digits smothered with flour, butter and God knows what else mess up buttons and screens. With a book, you can just crack it open (like the bottle of bubbly, perhaps, which comes after cooking!) to whatever page the recipe is on and be as grubby as you like. Another plus point? With the range of cookbooks available, expect to eat globally while shopping locally. Keywords: exotic and experimental.

PLANT-BASED PROTEIN

There is no doubt that 2021 will witness a boost in not only investment in but sales of plant-based and lab-grown meat. Too niche a reality? Initially, maybe, but before too long you will most definitely be buying it, cooking it, eating it. 

FOOD BOXES – SUBSCRIPTION & DELIVERY

This is where another enforced food trend of 2020 is bound to become even more of a player in 2021. Online food shopping was once something of a novelty, a sure-fire way to try something new but not really knowing what you were going to get when the food box was delivered to your door. With restaurants closed (and if they weren’t, they had restrictions to contend with), supermarkets a queueing chore, and more and more food producers refining their offerings as well as dealing with the best delivery methods, food boxes became the perfect solution. You could take your pick, too. From charcuterie/cheese and meats to patisserie and fish, from fruit/veg to bread/pastries, the options were plentiful – when you buy direct from (previously difficult-to-access) wholesalers and producers you have options that may not have been previously available on the supermarket shelves.

FOOD WASTE? NO THANKS!

An educational and home economical by-product of working from home and cooking from home is the awareness that we waste much more food than we should. Aside from the financial consequences, there are also moral ones, and it is, perhaps. the latter that hit home with more of a punch. When you extrapolate from home waste to restaurant and hotel food waste, the morality of the situation becomes even firmer. While there is little enough food waste from the home that would benefit anyone beyond it, think of the food waste from local hotels and eateries. Already, many apps are available, with many more on the way, that connect ‘food donors’ (including grocery stores, bakeries, etc) with local community groups that help those in need. 

HEALTHY EATING

If Covid-19 hadn’t forced our lifestyles to slow down, we might not have had the time – literally – to think about aspects of how we live on a day-to-day basis. From an often thoughtless approach to consuming food to a more intuitive awareness of how and what we eat; from just not caring to being more mindful of how food and beverages significantly address our levels of immunity and stamina; from not having the faintest idea to understanding more about the ingredients in our food – all these and more will make us healthier consumers of food. 

INSECTS

No, come back! As of this year, about 2.5 billion people worldwide frequently eat cooked and raw insects. Forming a substantive part of Asian diets, there is a notable rise in the sale of insect products in the European market. Foodstuffs such as Insnack (Germany), Jimini’s (France), Exo cricket bars (New York) and more sell like the proverbial hotcakes. Insect products are on sale in Sainsbury’s (UK), Carrefour (Spain) and Kaufland (Germany), with more supermarket chains to follow. If it seems unlikely there will be increased interest in this product, you’d do well to remember that 20 years ago the idea of eating raw fish was considered a no-go for most people outside the fussiest of food connoisseurs, but now sushi is considered less an exotic food than a staple part of the weekly shop. 

WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA

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