With more people than ever inclined to entertain friends and family at home instead of going out, informal in-home dining is still creating opportunities for food manufacturers writes Jonathan Thomas.
One holdover from the last economic recession has been the continued growth in popularity of entertaining and socializing in the home. For consumers, this often works out less costly than going out to pubs, clubs and restaurants, and the trend has continued even as the economic situation has improved across much of Europe. Eating and entertaining in the home has become the number one summer home leisure activity in the UK, and the growth in popularity of occasions such as barbecues, parties and buffets presents numerous opportunities for the food industry.
With their lighter evenings, the summer months account for a sizable percentage of at-home social eating occasions in markets such as the UK. Recent data from YouGov found that almost 80% of people like to make the most of their summer evenings, often by arranging or attending social events in the home. As further evidence of this trend, demand has grown for home features such as patios and outdoor lighting in recent years. Consumers (especially in the younger age groups) are increasingly starting to regard their garden as an extension to the home where entertaining and socializing with friends and family can take place when the weather permits.
Although barbecues are most strongly identified with places like Australia, South Africa and parts of the US, many people in Europe enjoy al fresco dining when the weather permits. Within the last decade, the UK has overtaken Germany as the region’s leading barbecue nation – in 2016, more than 115 barbecue occasions took place in the UK, according to data from National BBQ Week. This represents a significant increase from approximately 9 million in the late 1990s. Around two-thirds of all UK households own a barbecue grill, and the average number of barbecues held per year by each family is almost 10. This compares with less than 3 ten years ago.
Another trend evident in the UK and elsewhere is the growing popularity of mid-week barbecues. In 2016, almost 65 million mid-week barbecues took place in the UK, up by more than 18% compared with the previous year. In 2017, Sainsburys ran a campaign aimed at encouraging mid-week barbecues. Large outdoor screens were positioned at venues such as London Waterloo and Edinburgh Waverley railway stations, counting down the number of daylight hours left. Despite these developments, the weekend remains the most popular time for barbecues – Saturday is the preferred option in markets such as the UK, Germany and France, whereas Sunday is favored by over 40% of Italian consumers.
The complete version of this article is available in the July-August print issue of Frozen Food Europe.