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Waitrose on the “homebody economy”

Drawing on sales data, consumer surveys and social media food trends, Waitrose & Partners’ Food & Drink Report 2020-2021 highlights the elevated importance of cooking and sharing meals since the pandemic. The new report (which follows John Lewis & Partners’ recent How We Shop, Live and Look) provides more examples of increased demand for housewares.

The supermarket emphasises that ‘food and drink have become more central to our lives,’ and that: ‘People are enjoying the rituals associated with eating and drinking.’

Dinner parties are back on the agenda as we have become more appreciative of friends and family due to lockdowns. A quarter of those surveyed by Waitrose plan to host more dinner parties than they did previously. These gatherings are likely to be smaller than before, but many hosts are ‘trading up when it comes to their hosting menus’. Citing the fact that #Friendsmas has amassed 16.2 million views on TikTok, Waitrose claims that many consumers are planning multiple Christmas dinners, or similar festive celebrations with friends.

Some 60% of those surveyed say they take greater pride in their cooking than in pre-pandemic times, while 41% say lockdowns have made them more adventurous cooks. At Waitrose Cookery School, the most popular in-person courses have been Bao Cookery Class, Chicken Ruby Murray with Naan and Shawarma Feast, while the most popular virtual Cookery School classes were Taste of Italy, Curry Night and Make Bibimbap at Home.

Above: People are expanding their cooking repertoire at Waitrose & Partners Finchley Road Cookery School.
Above: People are expanding their cooking repertoire at Waitrose & Partners Finchley Road Cookery School.

Showing the rise of the outdoor kitchen, one in five say they have invested in a new barbecue, and almost 40% have used barbecues more. Meanwhile, 36% of Waitrose’s respondents have introduced a ‘home happy hour’ for household sundowner drinks, and one in ten has installed an outdoor bar.

The report emphasises the huge influence of social media platforms Instagram and TikTok in driving food trends. Examples include the TikTok trend for making pasta chips at home, which contributed to a 400% rise in sales of air fryers at John Lewis.  The viral trend for images of breakfast boards in August 2021 contributed to a 40% rise in serving platters at John Lewis, according to Waitrose.

In the day leading up to Waitrose’s poll, one in 12 people across all age groups posted a picture of their food or their ‘tablescaped’ meal setting on social media or sent a snap to a friend. A massive 75% of all 18-24-year-olds in the survey looked at TikTok and Instagram for food inspiration during lockdown.

Hence the supermarket highlights the importance of keeping up to date with social media, noting that: ‘a food trend might take off in South Korea and within a day, half a million people over here are asking our in-store Waitrose Partners: “What’s this ingredient?”’

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Above: Customers can buy kitchenware with ingredients as Waitrose branches stock more housewares from John Lewis.

The report also acknowledges that Waitrose branches are becoming ‘one-stop shops’, with John Lewis products becoming increasingly available. It highlights the availability of ‘the price- conscious ANYDAY range of homeware in our branches, meaning you can pick up cooking equipment along with your dinner.’

James Bailey, executive director at Waitrose sums up: “The past 19 months have seen us fall back in love with our homes. We’ve rediscovered the fun, creativity and sense of togetherness that food brings to our households, and many have embraced the inspiration that we get from popping to the shops to pick up our groceries. The majority of the people we surveyed told us the pandemic has fundamentally changed their outlook: they’re more conscious of their mental and physical health, they’re enjoying life’s simple pleasures, and they’ve embraced the importance of family and friends.”


Top: Small dinner parties are occurring more regularly: illustration from Waitrose & Partners’ Food & Drink Report 2020-2021.

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