The nation’s most loved foods of lockdown

The food and beverage industry has, and continues to battle a number of challenges in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

Foodservice providers have had to navigate fluctuating demands within the hospitality industry – from the highs of the Eat Out to Help Out government scheme, to the lows of a significantly scaled-back festive season – not to mention making it through not one, but three national lockdowns. 

Despite being a consumer-facing industry, as the country adjusted to the reality of at-home dining, businesses adapted too. With the population spending more time at home than ever before, Mintel found that consumer spending on food and alcoholic / non-alcoholic drinks actually grew significantly in 2020, with many trying to recreate the experiences and tastes of dining-out, at home.

Source: Mintel

As a result, lockdown presented a whole host of opportunities for businesses and brands to connect their products directly to consumers by catering to the evolving trends and tastes of the nation, which in turn has reignited the foodservice industry (to a degree). Find out more about how the hospitality industry boomed under a new at-home format in our blog on The Rise of Home Cooking in Lockdown.

Following the hardships of the last year, there’s now a light at the end of the tunnel. With the rollout of the vaccine well underway, restrictions are set to loosen and life should start to feel more normal – though we can expect social distancing measures and mask wearing to remain for a good while yet. 

In this blog, we’re going to discuss what trends are directing the food and beverage industry at present, look at the nation’s favourite flavours and shine a light on how F&B brands can adapt to meet that demand. 

Trends that are playing a role in our favourite foods

Health-conscious consumers

People are looking to eat more healthy and balanced diets, after it was announced by NHS England that for someone with a BMI of between 35 and 40, the risk of dying from Covid-19 rises by 40% compared with those who have a healthy BMI; more than 40 and the risk is 90% greater. As a result, research by Mintel found that 37% of people say eating immunity boosting foods has become more of a priority since the start of the lockdown. 

Be sure your menu caters to your customers’ changing tastes, offering healthier options that are more exciting than a simple salad – healthy doesn’t mean boring! Get creative and cook up a range of tasty, good quality food that will draw in the health conscious, and bring them back for more. Don’t forget to look at your drinks offering too – Mintel also found that 13% of people are interested in drinks that support their immune system – so look at incorporating juices packed full of vitamins and minerals.

The boom of home cooking 

With most of the country confined to their homes, it’s no surprise that people are cooking more, with research from Bain and Company estimating that 72% of meal occasions are now cooked in the home, compared to 60% pre-pandemic. With no set date for the reopening of the hospitality industry on any scale as of yet, adapting your offering to include cook-at-home kits is a great way to give your customers a taste of their favourite restaurant foods, from their own kitchens.

If you own a cafe, restaurant or even a local farm shop, look at how you can diversify your offering to meet the growing demand for cook-at-home kits with a range of healthy, vegan and flexitarian options. Entice your customers with potential prizes – from a discount off their next purchase to a voucher for when your doors are able to reopen – to encourage them to share pictures of their cooked dishes and tag your business across social media. Not only will this help raise awareness of your meal kits, and drive sales, it will also allow you to create a bank of user generated content which you can then re-share (with the permission of the person) across your own channels now and into the future.

Love local

The pandemic has led to a ‘rise in the locally-conscious consumer’ according to Speciality Food Magazine. Since the start of lockdown, local businesses have seen a surge in support from locals, which has been key to their survival during these unprecedented times. The article suggests this sense of community is set to continue, reporting findings from a study Paymentsense revealed that, whilst consumers are looking to spend less once lockdown is lifted, 53% agreed they’ll continue to support local restaurants and cafés. Tap into the sense of community spirit by sourcing local produce and working with other local businesses where possible – you could even partner up and create something exclusive like a dish or a flavour of ice cream!

So, what are the nation’s most popular foods in 2021? 

The nation’s favourite breakfasts 

In 2019, The Caterer reported that The AA had identified the UK’s top breakfast choices ahead of their Best B&B awards, noting that cereal came out the favourite of the nationwide poll, followed by toast, a cooked breakfast/full English, and porridge.



However, more recently The Grocer highlighted that during lockdown the people of the UK have been tucking into more indulgent breakfasts as they’ve got more time on their hands in the morning and aren’t in a rush to get into the office. The article features research by Kantar, which found that:

  • Brits have tucked into bacon and/or eggs for breakfast on an extra 82 million occasions compared to last year (up by 25% and 68% respectively) 
  • Chocolate spread featured in an extra 21 million breakfasts, a rise of 40%
  • Morning goods such as pastries and croissants have featured in 25% more occasions – an extra 77 million
  • There’s been a huge resurgence in sales of sausages, with value sales of the category up 6.6% compared to last year, equating to growth of £640.5m
  • Brunch has boomed during lockdown. Since the pandemic hit, Brits have cooked up weekend brunches on an extra 60 million occasions. That’s a year-on-year rise of 36%
  • Bread – toasted or otherwise – was served up for breakfast on 1,183 million occasions in the 12 weeks to 14 June, a rise of 8%

Despite the recent trend of higher calorie, more indulgent breakfasts, many are now much more health conscious than they were in the uncertain times of the first lockdown when this data was collected, and so these unhealthy habits are set to change towards more nutritious behaviours. Demand is growing for products that encourage good gut health, offer vegan alternatives, are high in fibre and low in sugar, fat and salt. 

The nation’s favourite snacks

Rasin UK carried out a study into the UK’s favourite snacks in lockdown, gathering data from over 2000 people. They found that: 

  • The average Brit is consuming an extra 333 calories a day 
  • The most popular lockdown snack of choice is cheese on toast, which 22% of Brits admitted to being their favourite
  • Other popular lockdown snacks include cheese and onion crisps (21%), bacon sandwiches (19%), chocolate cake (19%) and cheese and crackers (18%) 

The nation’s favourite takeaways

Since March, the public have been ordering more and more food, with Brits spending 10% more on takeaways than in pre-pandemic times. The hospitality industry had to adapt in an effort to secure an income with their doors still closed to the public, which has led to a mass expansion of the range of restaurants, coffee shops, sandwich shops, dessert cafes and takeaways available for people to order from.

For third party food delivery services such as Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats, business has boomed throughout lockdown, as their apps connect consumers to a whole host of local eateries with the convenience and safety of contactless payment and delivery. But what types of food have been most popular? As highlighted in our blog on The Rise of Home Cooking in Lockdown, research from City Pantry when working with Just Eat identified each region’s most popular takeaway – with Italian cuisine claiming the top spot against contenders such as Chinese and fried chicken.


Source: City Pantry

The nation’s favourite desserts

With sweet treats like banana bread reaching whole new levels of stardom during lockdown – it became so popular that The Grocer reported over 45,000 new photos of banana bread were posted on Instagram in April alone – desserts have played a prevalent role in lockdown dining. Research from City Pantry found that orders for dessert deliveries have dramatically increased, most notably in Wales where orders are up 151%! But which desserts are taking the cake, and which have not risen to the challenge? 

London cake store Jack and Beyond has revealed what the nation’s favourite pudding is based on their survey of 1,788 Brits. Top performers include profiteroles and red velvet cake – with the number one spot going to sticky toffee pudding – a classic – while fruit cake and Christmas pudding were ranked as some of the least favourites.


Source: UniLad

There you have it, some of the nations most loved dishes in 2021 – but now what?

Adapting your offering to meet the changing needs of consumers as their tastes evolve, and tapping into new trends as they emerge, is key to staying at the forefront of the industry. From sourcing ingredients, to creating dishes that delight your customers, innovation is at the heart of what we do – see what our chefs can create for you and your customers, so they leave with full bellies, empty plates and big smiles. 

Explore our range of businesses in The Billington Group’s Food division and get in touch to start your food innovation journey today.