Preparing For The Next Normal - Elevated Experience

In this article we look at Elevated Experience that sits as part of the wider social trend 'the pleasure principle', a movement that is centred around food and drink as a source of pleasure and escapism. In these turbulent times it's more important than ever to find respite and fun where we can so in this COVID-era everything from snacking, cooking and mealtimes take on a greater and deeper meaning.

...And since mealtimes and snack occasions are more important than ever, that means we want to get the most out of what we are eating! We want to take everything we consume to the 'next level'... for example - adding indulgent little touches to a dish, creating a party atmosphere to turn an everyday meal into an 'occasion', or perhaps just getting our hands dirty and making something from scratch for the first time. It's all about getting maximum pleasure, even if we have limited resources available to us.

Show & Tell:

Let's rewind to pre-pandemic times, mystery and secrets arguably ruled the roost in the food world… 'special sauce' recipes were fiercely guarded by fast food outlets, new restaurants made their name off the back of 'how an earth did you do that, signature dishes and some fine dining establishments even banned phones at the table to keep their tasting menus off social media. But now we are in different times…

As restaurants, producers and retailers alike are no longer able to engage with customers directly they've found new ways to communicate and connect at an emotional level in a digital space. We've seen prized recipes and sneak peek behind-the-scenes being given away, virtual tours and tastings given by vineyards, restaurants posting recipes for their signature dishes, Michelin-starred chefs hosting online cooking classes with live Q&A sessions and suppliers, farmers and growers connecting directly with consumers / diners in the virtual space. In these extraordinary times, it seems that 'sharing is caring' when it comes to food knowledge / information and all in the online space. Although we might be easing into a 'new normal', consumers are already used to accessing information and events virtually on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram and Zoom.

There's no doubt that some of these changes are here to stay and with that comes further opportunity to connect via new touch points, supporting physical products beyond the dining room or retail shelf, as consumers cross generationally have leapt forward years in their propensity to engage online.

True Carb Artisan:

In recent times, the notion that carbs are 'bad' has been thrown out the window by many consumers. Artisan bakeries would actually attract long queues of consumers wanting home baked sourdough loaves and pastries made with fresh milled flour and craft butter. As lockdown measures commenced, our love of good old carbs grew even deeper. Consumers aren't just buying these carbs, but really putting their skills to use and making it themselves… pizza, pasta, sourdough, banana bread, cakes, croissants and pushing the boundaries with focaccia art, babka and Swedish buns – we just can't seem to get enough of feel good artisan carb.

Many retailers have reported selling out of bakery ingredients and social media platforms are burgeoning with home cooks experimenting and upskilling with baking. As such, consumers and home cooks are discovering a new appreciation of skills, craft, time and flavours associated with bakery. Cooking and baking in particular are known to have anti-stress effects - comfort baking, procrasti-baking… call it what you will, there is no denying that home baking has become a global obsession. Bread, especially sourdough, demands patience, knowledge and a fair amount of skill. But when we do manage to produce a decent loaf with just flour, water and salt, like our ancestors, it becomes a thing of pride that cooks are sharing in their droves.

Even in a post COVID-era consumers will take the experiences of lockdown into the future where they'll have a closer affinity to food and bakery in particular. We see opportunity in baking equipment from bread makers to pizza ovens, part baked goods in chilled, new generation frozen and ambient bakery and the need for convenience for an upskilled home baker.

Touch of Luxe:

Consumers are unsurprisingly going to change their outlook and spending patterns as we are faced with the reality of insecurity and economic recession. For many, that will mean tightening purse strings and scaling back on extravagances such as luxury summer holidays, lavish multi-course dinners and big expensive purchases. However, that doesn't mean we don't still want a little treat every now and again.

Rather than big blowouts, little touches of luxury will be the quickest path to a pick-me-up for many people; for example, we may get our fix of decedent ingredients from the likes of oyster and champagne in sauces, truffle or n'duja in mayo, perhaps pasta inlayed with fresh herbs. Alternatively, small treats such as a mini strawberry tart with elderflower cream rather than our mid-morning flapjack, a bao slider or raclette filled mini rosti. After social distance relaxes and supermarket queues die down, we may continue getting that delivery of butter, eggs and milk from the local farm shop or consider swapping out our cheap bangers for artisan local ones from the butcher… In other words, turning everyday mealtimes, breakfasts and snacking into mini occasions by utilising the little touches of luxury and indulgence to make everyday food a pleasure.

Creating Memories:

As a nation, if we have an occasion to celebrate, traditionally many of us like to host parties and we typically look to restaurants, bars and pubs as our go-to's for food, drink and ambience. This picture changed suddenly and dramatically as we faced lockdown and social distancing measures – groups couldn't gather, and our favourite spots closed for the foreseeable future. However just because we are at home doesn't mean we don't still want to have fun and party; in many ways it is more important than ever to celebrate big occasions like birthdays but also turn everyday things into celebrations in their own right.

Food and drink is at the centre of just about any occasion which therefore gives restaurants and retailers alike a fantastic opportunity… After all, what's a birthday without a cake or a picnic without a hamper? Even when you're stuck at home there are ways to make memories every day and a wealth of potential to explore – from 'night in' kits with popcorn to virtual dinner parties where everyone gets the same meal delivered and even to birthday boxes (cake! candles! wine! gifts!) that have everything you need for a wee shindig at home with your family.

In the COVID-era, even long after lockdown is relaxed, we expect a residual caution to remain and as such there will be opportunity in 'staying in being the new going out', creating and sharing occasions with others at a distance.

The 'kit' has become a lockdown staple helping to bring experience, hard to find ingredients, a safe adventure and new skills to many food occasions. We expect the opportunity to develop with new 'kit-based occasions' such as BBQ's, picnics and afternoon teas as well as retail / food service collaborations.


Recent years have seen a fundamental shift in eating patterns. Snacking or eating multiple meals a day - people are adopting a more flexible of eating rather than sitting down to three set meals. Even though the pace of life has generally slowed down for many people during lockdown, that doesn't mean that they all of a sudden find themselves with a surplus of time (or desire) to revert to a traditional meal structure. John Lewis and Waitrose recently published a report which found that 38% of UK consumers admitted to increased snacking during lockdown – whilst Google Trends data at the end of April reported that 'quarantine snacks' had become the most searched food item online, not just in the UK but globally.

So, snack culture is still a 'thing' and indeed, the number of snacking occasions in the day may be on the rise. We must take into consideration what and how people are snacking has changed – 'grab and on the go' snacks have become less relevant and nutrition has taken something of a backseat to comfort when it comes to snack choices. However, this picture will continue to evolve as people adapt to the new normal; busy lives will call for wholesome, sustaining snacks and an interest in general wellbeing will drive healthy choices. This will drive the opportunity to explore – heat-and-eat, direct to consumer subscription boxes, on-the-go bars / bites as well as forever favourite nostalgic flavours and formats.

Love Cooking:

Global lockdown measures have meant that we are spending a lot more time at home, and of course, in the kitchen. The shuttering of restaurants meant that our social media feeds are no longer filled with pictures of fancy dinners and night outs but instead, home cooking successes. With the help of professionals, online cooking classes, recipe releases from our favourite restaurants and live cook-alongs the globe has rediscovered its love of cooking, and of course baking… there is now an abundance of ways for budding home cooks to become bona fide gourmands.

Though takeaways and restaurants are slowly reopening, the consumer appetite for home cooking has now been well and truly wetted; this does however leave plenty of opportunity for enterprising retailers and restaurants. Think restaurant meal kits that you assemble and finish at home; also, restaurant quality provisions from meat, fish, produce and ingredients. In addition, baking kits; virtual cooking classes; recipes for cooking on a budget and of course, home cooking equipment. Home cooks are discovering the likes of pizza ovens and ice cream makers for the first time as well in the newly explored potential that lies in store cupboard cooking.

In this article we've highlighted the relevance and shifts that are likely to evolve and develop in the COVID-era through the lens of Elevated Experience. A wealth of opportunity exists to leverage the newfound connection that exists with food and drink to bring pleasure and escapism. This will allow consumers to create memories, helping them to continue to love cooking, connect with their food and where it comes from, to adapt their snacking and to add a touch of luxury. By considering these shifts and how you as a business, brand, start-up or entrepreneur, pivot and adapt in consideration of them, will mean that you're well positioned to succeed in this COVID-era in food and drink.

In article 9 we'll be looking at the social driver 'don't stop the gratification', looking at the mega trend Friction Free through the lens of the COVID-19 and the longer terms shifts that we expect to see manifest.

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Stay safe, keep well and we'll see you in Article 9.