Irish people ‘seeking healthier option’ when eating away from home

Popularity of plant-based products are on the rise among consumers, seminar told

  Irish people look set to spend more than €8.5 billion on food and drink prepared or consumed outside the homes this year. Photograph: iStock

Irish people look set to spend more than €8.5 billion on food and drink prepared or consumed outside the homes this year. Photograph: iStock

 

Irish consumers are increasingly seeking out healthier options when eating away from their homes with the popularity of plant-based options on the rise, a food seminar hosted by Bord Bia on Wednesday morning heard.

Irish people look set to spend more than €8.5 billion on food and drink prepared or consumed outside the homes this year, up 4.5 per cent on last year, according to the food authority’s 2019 Foodservice Market Insights Report.

While spending is likely to increase further next year, service providers have been warned that the rates at which the market grows are likely to slow.

Focusing on what consumers say they want, the report said that while many people are increasingly eating food prepared by others, they still want what they consume to have the benefits of home-cooked meals when it comes to health and versatility.

The report, which was released the at a foodservice seminar in the Killashee Hotel in Naas said consumers are blaming their increasingly busy lifestyles on decisions not to cook at home.

It highlighted a growing demand for increased choice, including a variety of high quality beverages and more plant-based options as well as a greater desire to explore global flavours.

Among the things that consumer want are the newer, more ethnically authentic cuisines from a wider range of countries.

Consumers also expressed a desire to visit food providers they feel good about with the importance of “elevated hospitality, transparent practices, or a feeling of mutual respect” stressed.

Researchers were told that positive human interaction give people “added value as part of dining out” and food service operators were advised to maximise this opportunity for building brand loyalty”.

There is also an ongoing consumer movement in support of sustainability as a driving force when choosing to eat out.

While strict veganism still only accounts for a small percentage of sales, the report highlighted the need for providers to cater to consumers that are looking for wider choices when eating out.

It found that home delivery services have grown rapidly but said there was still “room for improvement when it comes to pricing and wait times”.

The insights report described 2019 as “good” for the foodservice industry although it says growth of the sector is “not as robust” as in previous years with “some cautionary tones starting to appear” many of which are linked to Brexit uncertainty around sourcing and tourism numbers.

“The Irish foodservice industry has been growing at robust levels for several years but warning signs are on the horizon and industry operators and food and drink suppliers alike should be examining options and alternative strategic plans in the event of a possible slowdown,” said Bord Bia’s foodservice specialist Maureen Gahan.

She said it was important for food and beverage suppliers to think about how their products can better meet the needs of consumers.