Food for Thought: September 2021

Supply chain crisis, food subscriptions, coffee without the bean, and other recent articles, reports and long reads that made us stop and think

September 10, 2021
Kathryn Race
The outline of a head filled with fresh vegetables on a grey background
September 10, 2021
Kathryn Race

Spotting interesting trends and finding noteworthy food facts and figures is a big part of what we do at Ceres. Here are 10 recent articles, reports and long reads that made us stop and think.

Supply chain crisis: Stocks in British shops and warehouses are at their lowest level since records began in 1983, leading to growing warnings about shortages at Christmas. A new report by the Food and Drink Federation estimates there are more than 400,000 unfilled posts across the entire food and drink industry. [Source: The Observer]

Driving up wages: As HGV driver shortages continue to disrupt supply chains, Waitrose is now offering to pay up to £53,780 a year to drivers of large goods vehicles. On average, salaries for Waitrose’s LGV drivers have increased by £7k or 15% in the past 18 months. [Source: The Times]

Brits embrace food subscriptions: More than a quarter (26%) of UK shoppers are currently signed up to a food or drink subscription, according to research by Royal Mail. This includes recipe boxes. The same research also found strong growth in subscriptions for personal care products such as deodorants and household staples such as laundry detergent. [Source: Royal Mail]

Food waste on the rise again: After households successfully reduced food waste during lockdown, the most recent data suggests bad habits have crept back in. Wrap’s latest food waste trends survey finds that self-reported food waste levels have rebounded and are now back where they were in 2018. Meanwhile, positive habits such as batch cooking, freezing and using up leftovers have all declined. Consumers are also less likely to see food waste as an issue of national importance. [Source: Wrap]

Decline in plant-based searches: Analysis by Simporter suggests online search volumes for plant-based meat alternatives have dropped by 10% in 2021 vs 2020, even though buzz on social media and customer reviews continue to grow strongly. This could mean trial is decreasing and the category will soon depend more heavily on repeat purchases. [Source: Food Navigator]

Rise of the gummy: Gummies can be found well beyond the confectionery aisle these days, with adult vitamins and supplements seeing especially strong growth. Research from the US suggests use of the term ‘gummy’ in the supplements category has grown by more than 70% over the past year. [Source: Eater]

Healthy convenience: A new generation of corner shops in the US are trying to tackle food deserts, malnutrition, diabetes and obesity with fresher, healthier food that’s affordable for deprived communities. In June, a report by the US Food and Nutrition Service found that the biggest barrier to healthy food remains price. [Source: The Guardian]

All aboard the metaverse: In a sign that more fmcg brands are exploring opportunities in gaming, esports and the like, Stella Artois struck a deal to sponsor Zed Run, a blockchain-based online horse racing platform, earlier this summer. “The future of sports, media and entertainment is virtual,” said AB InBev’s global head of technology and innovation. “Some 2.5bn people already participate in the virtual economy. This is where the world is moving to and there is no question that brands will need to find places to be in the virtual world in parallel to where they are in the real world.” [Source: Sifted]

Coffee without the bean: Beanless coffee startups like Atomo have been making headlines for a while, and there continues to be strong investor interest. Bay Area startup Compound Foods recently announced new funding worth $4.5 million to help bring its lab-created coffee to market. With coffee one of the crops most at risk from global heating, climate resilience and sustainability are among the big selling points of beanless coffee. [Source: TechCrunch]

Olympian food bloggers: The Tokyo Olympic Games saw an explosion of food content from Olympic athletes on social platforms such as TikTok. Popular formats include ‘What I eat in a day’ and behind-the-scenes footage from the Olympic village dining halls. It’s a useful introduction to the ‘ugly delicious’ aesthetic of TikTok food content. [Source: Bon Appetit]