Megatrends & Tourism Series #Week 5: Food Culture

Monitoring Trends to achieve High Performance

My mission is to help tourism professionals achieve high performance so they can build businesses and destinations that last. To build lasting success and achieve high performance, it’s essential to have a look at what’s happening around you right now and what might be coming down the line in the future. In this regard, Megatrend Analysis is something that’s getting a lot of attention.

- A Megatrend is defined as a long-term shift in behaviour or attitude with global impact across multiple industries.

- Megatrend Analysis is about successfully identifying, assessing and acting on megatrends. This is essential for driving sustainable growth and remaining relevant in a rapidly changing world where new ideas continue to disrupt entire industries.

In Part 5, we’re focusing on Food Culture.

About Food Culture

We all know that all things food have become more important in our day-to-day lives. A 2016 survey by the World Food Travel Association identified 57% who said food experiences are now more important than they were 5 years previously. Well, we have to eat every day. It’s tasty and enjoyable and a great way to spend time with friends and families. Just think how popular cookery shows, celebrity chefs, cookoffs and cookery contexts and cookbooks have become – they’re the new reality TV and there’s no signs of interest waning. There’s also a growth in what might have been called alternative diets and lifestyles e.g. veganism, vegetarianism, paleo, gluten-free. In the 2016 Food Travel Monitor Study, 57% of holidaymakers said that food experiences are now more important than they were 5 years ago.

The truth is that Food Culture reflects the many questions and challenges of our modern lifestyle. Many people say it’s a reflection of the general anxiety and uncertainty in our society nowadays. Understanding it is important for everybody in tourism. This is because your long-term success will depend on how well you understand your target market’s values, travel aspirations, and anxieties. And our growing food culture says a lot about these!

Values & Aspirations reflected in the Food Culture Megatrend

1. Search for Sustainability: With a predicted population of 8,3bn by 2030, we’ll need 50% more energy, 40% more water and 35% more food to sustain ourselves. In food terms, the planet is in negative equity. We consume more than we are able to regenerate. If our current lifestyle continues, humankind would need the resources of 1.5 planets to support that lifestyle in 2030. By 2045, we would need the resources of 3 planets. We are becoming increasingly aware of our individual and collective responsibility to address this.

2. Health for All: Concerns over obesity, hunger, food sensitivity and disease continue to rise. There are approximately 868m undernourished people and 1.5 billion overweight or obese people. Lack of food is more fatal: 36 million per year die from lack of food while 29 million per year die from too much food. This is one of the biggest challenges of our times. Food as Survival, Food as Cure and Food as Prevention brings Food Culture into the medical domain.

3. War on Food Waste: We can expect a massive and sustained focus on food waste. It is increasingly regarded as unethical and unnecessary. 1.3 billion tons of edible food is wasted globally each year. This is a 1/3 of global food production. This is 4 times what it would take to feed the 868m who are hungry.

4. Self-Expression: We will become even more sensitized to topics like animal rights, food waste and global food shortages. Our food choices will become a very strong expression of what we support and what we don’t. It will be a tangible outward expression of our ethics. This is evident in the current rise in veganism and vegetarianism for example.

5. Lifestyle: On another level, people will seek to set themselves apart through their food choices. A Personalized DNA-based diet is set to the highest social distinction of them all. Food as fashion, food as culture, food as heritage are key lifestyle choices. Sharing our range of food experiences is a way to communicate our accomplishment, ethics, global interest and general social worldliness. Food is also a vehicle for self-optimization and can boost our cognitive and physical performance. Our performance culture has become part of our lifestyle. Being able to share our food experiences and preferences online to express and communicate who we are will be important.

6. Ritual & Conviviality: The defining features of modern life is that it is fast, frenzied, and pressurised. ‘Time poverty’ is a common condition. We are increasingly individualized, demanding speed and convenience in our eating practices, eating for fuel and often eating alone or on the go. We are losing the dimension of eating with others. As an antidote, we can expect a rise in demand for experiences based on food rituals of communal sharing, spending time with family and friends and benefitting from a sense of conviviality.

7. Simplicity: There’s a general nostalgia for a simpler, slower, safer, more secure society. Food & Drink allow us to go back in time a little, to gain comfort from simple ingredients, prepared simply, to revisit ways of growing, cooking and sharing that are stored in our collective memories.

What does this mean for tourism operators?

Wow, there’s a lot involved in this food thing. Here are some quick and obvious thoughts:

1. Operate your business in a sustainable, ethical and authentic way. Wage your own war on waste. Be transparent and tell your visitors about it.

2. Get good at Food Storytelling – allow visitors connect with you, your history, the heritage and culture of your place through your food story.

3. Build experiences that meet the aspirations and anxieties of holidaymakers – create opportunities for conviviality and communal sharing, allow them experience the source of the food and the people who produce it, create events that they can plan itineraries around, link food experiences with activity and cultural experiences, link to the past for process and link to the future for innovation in dishes and presentation.

4. Design experiences and spaces to be “instragrammable” and “streamable”.

Sources: Eating in 2030 Trends & Perspectives, Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition PWC (2016) Five Megatrends and their implications for Defense & Security Skift (2016) Food is now the Leading Hook in Travel World Food Travel Association (2016) Food Travel Monitor