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“Covid will lead to secret bars, unmonitored home parties, and forest raves”

Wallander is an experienced trend forecaster and the CEO of communication agency Food & Friends, founded in 1998, with a focus on food and beverage. They continuously run projects generating insights, including their own ”Trendspotting” seminars and, for nine years, ”The Food Report”, a survey of how we shop, cook, and eat in Sweden.

First, how has this last year been as a trend forecaster?

— Usually, I try to travel where trends evolve, that is LA, San Francisco, and NYC, London, and other capitals in Europe and lately more and more to big cities in Asia. This ghastly year though, I have had to spend mostly at home, where I have cultivated my passion for cooking new dishes for my very patient — and hungry — family.

And what predictions do you have on food and beverage for 2021?

1. Distance dining: In restaurants, to keep guests apart to avoid the risk of infection. Can be done by moving tables, putting up temporary walls, moving the guests into greenhouses (as seen in, for example, Amsterdam), or using hotel rooms as chambres séparées. You can also use mannequins to block chairs to make the dining space less desolate or, as in Berlin, arrange tiny private discos inside telephone booths

2. Transformations: Another restaurant phenomenon during the lockdown is to do makeovers turning themselves into grocery stores or delis. A smart way to keep staff on, support suppliers (who often lack an alternative route to market), and maintain their relationship with their regulars, who now can buy restaurant quality produce. My favorite example of this is Brat in Shoreditch, London, but there are many more. 

3. Covid covert: What happens when you ban bars and restaurants? The intention is of course to stop the spread of the virus, but it can have the opposite effect when it leads to the opening of secret bars, like the Speakeasies during the Prohibition in 1920s USA, unmonitored home parties, and forest raves, also known as Open Air.

4. Fortress home: Corona has made us move our social life to our homes, the only place where we feel safe and secure. According to a survey, some 70% plan to move their social life home. This can also be seen among some younger influencers who do not travel the world and stay at fancy hotels but rather stay at home in their bedrooms, which has given them the epithet ”Bedroom Broadcasters”. 

5. Comfort food: In uncertain times we tend to crave what is familiar and safe, food that mommy made. In Sweden, traditional Swedish fare ”Husmanskost” (think cabbage pudding, meatloaf, and potato pancakes) has increased, while other countries are brushing off their own food heritage. During Corona lockdown, the food trend is more about looking backward than forward.

6. Tablescaping: In times where many people have too much spare time on their hands, interests in hobbies and pastimes increase. One way to spend an afternoon, a day, or a week, is to develop spectacular table settings, and then share them with the world on Instagram tagged #tablescaping. This might sound a bit silly — you are right — but this has been a boon for Swedish home-decoration chain Cervera, and in the UK, Selfridges has doubled its sales of tablecloths.

7. Shopping habits: When we decrease our spending in restaurants, we naturally increase our shopping at food stores. Digital ordering has increased by 100% since March, mostly among the elderly who until now have been hesitant to change their shopping habits. Apart from that, we see four changes in previous shopping trends: 

— After several years of steady decrease, the interest in branded food goods has surged. In 2021, we will see what this has meant in volume and value for the retailers’ private labels. 

— Similar changes can be seen regarding the interest in organic foods. Last year organic lost both buying intent as well as actual market share in Sweden. Is this a comeback?

— Previously the trend was that we more and more increased the frequency of our visits to the grocery store, now we are more restrictive with store visits to try to minimize any personal contact. 

— Before the pandemic, a movement was building towards the reduction of packaging. This has now been reversed, and the proportion of packaged goods has increased. More so than before, we tend to prefer products that no one else has touched.

8. Snacking: The pandemic has seen a large increase in snacking and we are increasingly leaving the regime of three larger meals per day in favor of constant ”grazing”. All is not lost, however, as more and more healthy snacking products are being developed. 

9. Quarantinis”: Take whatever you have at the back of the drink cupboard that is completely forgotten, like that old bottle of Ouzo, and mix it with something else and you have a delicious(?) Quarantini. During the lockdown in Sweden, we drink as much as before, but we all suspect that everyone else has increased their alcohol intake.

10. Double usage: Restaurants become even more dependent on maximizing their revenue, and experiment with different disguises (and menus) such as café during the day and full-fledged restaurant in the evening. Or furniture store during the day and wine bar in the evening. Or hairdresser during the day and cocktail bar at night. Different parts of the day have different needs to be met, fueling new hybrids.

11. Rotating restaurants: As there now will be more chefs than restaurant kitchens, chefs will appear doing guest appearances at other locations. Restaurants that make this their main business concept will appear, and there will always be a new face in the kitchen and a reason to book a table again.

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