Food For Thought - October 2022

Will inflation derail the plant-based boom? Are sustainable packaging goals are slipping? Plus other recent articles, reports and long reads that made us stop and think.

October 07, 2022
Kathryn Race
A plate with a question mark on it, with a spoon, fork and knife
October 07, 2022
Kathryn Race

Will inflation derail the plant-based boom?

New Kantar figures suggest sales of plant-based meat alternatives grew by just 2.5% in the 36 weeks to early September compared with 40% in 2020 and 14% in 2021. As incomes are being squeezed, flexitarian consumers are less willing to pay a premium for plant-based options, market commentators say. Many, however, remain optimistic about the category’s long-term prospects. [Source: FT]

Cost-of-living crisis bites hard:

More than five million people in the UK have gone without food in the past three months as they struggle to make ends meet, according to a report by the Money Advice Trust. This includes eating just once a day, skipping meals or not eating at all. [Source: The Guardian]

A new take on food labels:

Some behavioural scientists are arguing in favour of food labels that tell consumers how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories. It comes as new research shows that consumers find it easier to understand information such as ‘calories in this cake require 90 minutes of walking to burn off’ than calorie numbers or traffic light labels. [Source: The Telegraph]

Investigating satiety:

Foods such as chilli pepper and green tea have a reputation for reducing appetite, but scientific evidence is sparse. And while dietary fibre and protein are also associated with increased satiety, scientists quoted in this article say more research is needed to understand exactly how macronutrients may contribute to making people feel fuller for longer. [Source: BBC Future]

The rise of sensory cues:

Major food and drink players are increasingly engineering distinctive sensory cues and creating ‘multisensorial experiences’ to enhance their brands and protect them from own-label competition. [Source: Food Navigator]

Sustainable packaging goals are slipping: 

A global survey by McKinsey suggests businesses are in danger of falling behind on their sustainable packaging commitments. While 75% of organisations across sectors have set sustainable packaging goals, just 30% are well-placed to meet them, the survey suggests. A lack of clear sustainability metrics is one of the big barriers. [Source: McKinsey]

How food photos affect the brain:

Scientists at MIT have found that some parts of our brain are stimulated exclusively by images of food. “[It] may be linked to the fact that food is critically important for survival, or due to the fact that it is a core element of our social interactions,” says Meenakshi Khosla, PhD, a postdoctorate at MIT. [Source: Bon Appetit]

How Instagram food content is changing:

Carefully stylised images are out in favour of more realistic, messy offerings. Experts say the shift is happening thanks to Gen Z content creators who are championing a more authentic, lo-fi take on food. The growth in home cooking during lockdown has also increased demand for more accessible food content. [Source: Eater]

Analysing media coverage about diet change:

A new study argues that journalists are repeating the mistakes of the climate change debate by reporting the need to reduce meat as an open debate. The study looked at US newspapers specifically but highlights arguments that are also relevant in a UK context. [Source: Forbes]

Butter boards are taking over TikTok:

The latest viral TikTok food trend involves smearing butter on cutting boards and serving plates and scattering fruit, nuts, edible flowers or herbs on top. It’s early days, but some butter suppliers in the US say they’ve seen an increase in sales. [Source: New York Times]