You’d be forgiven for thinking that the family meal was long extinct. In our time-poor society, where applications come before interactions and iPhones have replaced eye contact, it would be easy to assume that catering to individuals rather than groups would always be way to go.
All you need is love
To a degree, this is true. In the last two years alone, one and two- person occasions have grown by over a billion, representing nearly three quarters of all food and drink growth. These occasions now account for over 59% of all food or drink consumption moments. By comparison, five or more people occasions make-up just 10%.
This isn’t because we’re becoming more reclusive in our consumption decisions. During the same period, we recorded an additional 1.4 billion households in the UK of which 1.1 billion are one or two person households – meaning smaller occasions are inevitable.
Return of the snack
We should also bear in mind that in this period the snacking occasion has seen a bit of a resurgence. Snacking, a more individual occasion enjoyed by two people or less 72.6% of the time, fell consistently throughout 2016 and 2017 as consumers increasingly moved towards core meal times. However, through 2018 we saw this trend reverse: by the end of the year the number of snacking occasions reached a peak not seen since March 2016. This was driven strongly by one- and two-member moments.
We are family
If we focus purely on meal times in a larger household though a different story begins to emerge. In households of five or more people, eating together accounts for 82% of occasions, up 1% on last year as families appear to be increasing their time together – a far cry from the isolated family image that may be being portrayed.
Consumers who describe their meal as ‘together time’ are driving profitability – it is growing by 3.4% across the last two years, and now worth £13.5 billion. Two years ago, this was only £12.4 billion. At £1.74 an occasion, this is seen as the area consumers will throw more money at than most others, with only ‘celebration’ and ‘special’ seeing higher average spend. Those brands that can get onto the family table can charge more for the pleasure.
In many ways, the clear growth at both ends of the spectrum only goes to highlight the importance for a manufacturer to make sure they are catering to both individuals and larger groups. Among both there are clear and different propositions. With habits diverging at a rapid pace, those who want to win will need to cater to the entire spectrum or risk being left behind.