Posted on April 13, 2023 by Codec Team

Food in a time of crisis - changing eating habits through the recession


As the economic recession continues to impact the world, people's daily routines and habits have been forced to change. One area where this is particularly evident is in our eating habits, with many individuals opting to tighten their belts and explore more budget-friendly alternatives when it comes to grocery shopping and cooking. 

From swapping from Waitrose to Lidl, to trying to recreate the restaurant experience in our living rooms - we looked at our platform to uncover some key trends we’ve identified in reaction to the high cost of living. 

Fall in brand loyalty

During times of economic hardship, people often need to tighten their belts and look for ways to save money. One area where this is particularly noticeable is grocery shopping. Many people are swapping their usual supermarket for a more budget alternative, and are opting for own-brand products instead of branded ones.

Interest in Budget Supermarkets has surged across all communities, with the most significant uptick observed in communities with historically luxury spending habits (+15% month on month). Similarly, Cooking on a Budget has become increasingly popular, with some communities showing a +30% rise in interest.

We can also see a rise in engagements with brands like Lidl and Aldi - household names that are renowned for their cheaper, own label alternatives to bigger brands. This coincides with increased engagements with food topics/recipes online, as people take to social media to share innovative ways to maximise value when shopping and cooking. 

Rise in eating at home

The ongoing recession has triggered a marked decline in the number of individuals dining out, with many opting to cook meals at home due to tighter budgets. This trend mirrors the one we witnessed during the pandemic, when dining restrictions forced individuals to eat at home, and we can now see a resurgence of these patterns.

In most communities, Fine Dining is witnessing a downward trend, experiencing an average drop of 20% since the end of 2021. On the other hand, Subscription Recipe Boxes are gaining popularity, particularly among communities that enjoy experiencing diverse food options beyond the home (+26%). These boxes offer a cost-effective alternative for individuals keen on avoiding supermarkets while being mindful in their food approach.

The rising interest in Recipes - spanning from brunch, to Italian and Mexican - indicates a growing enthusiasm for replicating dine-out experiences at home. In contrast, interest in Reviews and Dining Guides is dwindling, reaching its lowest point since the pandemic's peak in 2020.

Rise in meat-free meals

We are seeing a notable upswing in the reduction of meat consumption, which has already been gaining momentum due to mounting concerns about the environment and animal welfare. Interestingly, the ongoing recession appears to have catalysed a renewed surge in individuals embracing meat-free diets as a practical and cost-effective measure.

The popularity of Vegan and Vegetarian Diets is rising, particularly among progressive communities (+21%), and even traditionally less-engaged groups have displayed interest in this movement (+8%). There is also a noticeable spike in the demand for Vegan/Vegetarian Recipes (+12%), highlighting a growing desire for culinary innovation in plant-based cuisine.

As a further testament to this trend, interest in Vegetable Gardens has spiked by 9%, indicating that people are keen on consuming more vegetables and minimising their reliance on supermarkets. Although this shift may be attributed to recent disruptions in vegetable supply chains in the UK, prompting individuals to cultivate their own gardens for a reliable and sustainable food source.

At Codec, we work with ambitious brands globally, helping them supercharge their growth through the power of communities. 

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