New research reveals that, even during lockdown, British couples enjoyed three food-based dates per month.

After sixteen months of intermittent lockdown, new research from European bakery experts, St Pierre, reveals that food is still at the heart of the nation, with interesting insights for retail and foodservice sectors.

Two thirds of Brits believe that a first date should always include food, but the rise of street food experiences in the UK means that 27 per cent are heading to food markets and a quarter (25 per cent) choose to romance their partners at a food festival.

The research, which was carried out during UK lockdown signals a positive return to business for many of the nation’s restaurants but has also been developed to help retailers with merchandising solutions.

Paul Baker, founder of St Pierre comments, “We are all aware of how popular meal kits and food delivery services have become over the past few months. In fact, 86 per cent of us enjoyed food together ‘virtually’ in some way over the past year, which goes to show how big a role food plays in our daily lives. It’s also key to recognise that 43 per cent of Brits are spending more each week on their food shop now than pre-pandemic. What’s more interesting though, is what they are spending that money on.”

The increase in at-home cooking has driven the adoption of more exploratory flavour profiles which, in turn, has created new opportunities. One in ten UK adults have either signed up to a subscription box in a bid to keep their menu exciting or have instead taken advantage of savvy restaurateurs pivoting business to produce meal kit boxes. Now, major retailers are looking to maximise the opportunity, but in order to compete with other subscription services, are looking for quality products that deliver on high consumer expectations.

Baker adds, “Great food is a joy to be shared but this research might provide some insight for restaurants revising their menus for a return to business. It turns out 55 per cent of us would never share a meal on a date, preferring to order only for themselves.”

Meal occasions have also changed dramatically over the past 12 months, driving growth in the breakfast and brunch market. Almost a quarter of Brits believe that a date over breakfast or brunch would help keep the atmosphere casual, one in ten actually prefer it to any other meal time for a date and 46 per cent have opted for a breakfast or brunch date.

Baker continued, “This is great insight for key occasions. For retailers, they can revise their cross-merchandising in-store to drive sales. Valentine’s Day next year might be more about breakfast than a romantic evening meal – why not capitalise on sales and inspire a range of meal ideas that cater to changing consumer attitudes? The same is true for foodservice operators reviewing their menus. If almost half the nation are dating at breakfast or brunch, then there’s a missed opportunity in not elevating your menu to cater to these occasions. Savvy businesses will look for products that are versatile enough to deliver for breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner.”

The survey from St Pierre also revealed other occasions that could deliver opportunities for retailers, with ‘meeting the in-laws’ calling for a Roast Dinner, a proposal accompanied by steak and a home-move demanding a pizza or a curry.

St Pierre has developed a series of recipes, based on the findings to help shoppers recreate the meals at home and to inspire operators to embrace new trends. Along with a quiz that guesses how long consumers have been in a relationship, the brand has launched its ‘Fall in Love with St Pierre’ campaign across PR, social and digital channels. The brand’s St Pierre Brioche Burger Buns are now the UK’s number one branded burger bun, whilst increased distribution and healthy sales have ensured the brand is up 62 per cent year on year.

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