Written by Nigel Draper, Founder and Managing Director of Sorsco
The hospitality industry has faced many challenges and setbacks in recent years. From the far-reaching impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, to rising energy costs and ever-changing consumer preferences; culminating in a complex and turbulent landscape.
In fact, according to law firm, Shakespeare Martineau, the hospitality industry has accounted for 10% of company administrations in the UK in 2023, making it the fourth-highest sector. This is a 22% increase from the previous year and effectively highlights the need for strategic realignment.
In addition to this, the rise of tech-driven consumers has created significant obstacles for the hospitality industry, with Instagram-worthy food pictures and endorsements created by bloggers and influencers alike shaping consumer behaviours and purchasing habits. According to recent research by SEVENROOMS, almost half (49%) of consumers stated that they have visited a restaurant simply because it went ‘viral’ on social media, and nearly one-third (31%) will only visit restaurants that are seen as ‘Instagrammable’. Ultimately, in an era where a single viral TikTok video can either catapult a business to success or lead to its downfall, staying ahead of emerging trends is crucial.
That said, what is ‘in store’ for the hospitality sector in 2024, and how can businesses keep pace with emerging trends to ensure success? Let’s explore:
The ongoing battle for quality ingredients
The increasing importance of traceability in ingredient sourcing has become a crucial factor for consumers globally, where a study by Ingredient Communications revealed that 52% of consumers would willingly spend over 10% more on food and beverage products containing recognisable and trusted ingredients. This growing demand for transparency places immense pressure on businesses to trace the origins of their ingredients, necessitating a fundamental shift in sourcing practices.
This shift has impacted even the most prominent names in the hospitality industry in recent years. For example, renowned brands and fast-food giants such as McDonalds are revolutionising their ingredient choices, where in April 2023,the fast-food chain announced a shift to 100% fresh beef in its quarter-pound burgers, while confirming it would eliminate artificial preservatives from its Chicken McNuggets and use only cage-free eggs by 2025.
The hospitality industry needs to recognise that consumers are becoming more conscious about the quality of ingredients. With major brands like McDonald’s prioritising higher quality produce, it’s important to be proactive to stay competitive and meet consumer demands – taking the time to conduct extensive research to find suppliers that can meet rising quality standards.
The viral phenomenon and impact of social media
There is no doubt that social media has had a profound impact on society’s eating, drinking, and purchasing habits. This transformative shift has been largely influenced by the rise in health consciousness, sustainability trends and the influence of platforms such as TikTok.
TikTok, in particular, has played a pivotal role in attracting culinary interest. In fact, the platform’s showcasing of feta pasta and charcuterie boards significantly impacted internet searches, positioning them as one of the top 5 trending global searches of 2021.
This surge in influence has even prompted leading UK supermarket chains, such as Waitrose, to integrate TikTok into their annual food and drink report, demonstrating a recognition of the platform’s impact on consumer behaviour. The Waitrose food and drink report delves into key TikTok trends and their influence, such as the ‘whipped feta’ trend which led to a remarkable 33% increase in feta sales. Waitrose also reported that searches for whipped feta recipes on their website were up by a whopping 4,325% year on year.
Understanding and staying ahead of these viral trends now holds the key to success in the food and drink industry, where those who are proactive in these content-driven shifts will certainly reap reward as they hit their peak.
As we enter 2024 it’s no surprise that sustainability has become a crucial focus for consumers, significantly influencing their attitudes and behaviours towards food and drink businesses.
Now more than ever before businesses are compelled to take proactive action – even if it means incurring additional costs – to reduce their carbon footprint and make their supply chains more sustainable. Notable brands such as Nestlé are showcasing this commitment to sustainability, where in August 2023 it announced the transition of its deliveries from road to rail to reduce its CO2 emissions, using a groundbreaking double-stacked rail container – being the first of its kind.
Furthermore, according to Yara International’s European survey on sustainable food, businesses that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability have a significant influence on consumer purchasing behaviour. In fact, the survey found that 69% of participants are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly food options, and an additional 31% stated that they already make sustainable choices when buying food.
These trends not only reflect a growing awareness among consumers but also highlight the need for food and drink businesses to integrate sustainability into their core strategies to meet evolving market expectations and demand.
So, what is in ‘store’ for 2024?
If the past few years have taught us anything, it is the importance of being prepared for the unexpected. Although this may not be an easy task, staying informed about emerging trends and consumer behaviours can help hospitality businesses set themselves aside from the competition.
Therefore, a proactive approach to the latest regulations, sustainability practices, and supply chain concerns is crucial for navigating the upcoming year, as consumers place increasing importance on sustainability and traceability. As such, if the hospitality sector is to make one vital change in 2024, it should be the development of a ‘green’ and transparent supply chain.
Nigel Draper is the Founder and Managing Director of Sorsco, experts in logistics and procurement for the hospitality sector.