10 May 2021
Afternoon tea is one of the nation’s favourite traditions. Either enjoyed at home, in local cafes and tea rooms or in a nice hotel, we love the combination of sweet and savoury treats accompanied by some of the 165 million cups of tea we drink each day in the UK . In recent years the British tradition of Afternoon Tea has undertaken a snazzy makeover and become increasingly trendy again.
During lockdown, delivery services evolved rapidly and people continued to search for pick-me-ups. The weather continued to get better, and the promise of outdoor eating led to afternoon teas swiftly becoming one of the fastest-growing deliveries across the whole of the UK. In addition, it is perhaps one of the most nostalgic and comforting of British experiences, evoking memories of a summer afternoon with friends and family or even when visiting your grandparents. Recent Google Trends data found that afternoon tea kits topped the list of most increased searches for ‘delivery’ queries in the UK . The availability of delivery kits has meant that almost any occasion or event such as birthdays or anniversaries, largely restricted due to lockdown, could now be celebrated with scones and cakes in your home ‘bubble’. Two dates in particular, Mother’s and Father’s Day proved especially popular during lockdown.
Looking over the 14 months since the first UK lockdown and as restrictions fluctuated, we can begin to piece together many emerging consumer trends some of which look set to sustain in the long term. With more time at home, 2 in 5 consumers spent more time in the kitchen cooking homemade food over lockdown, with 27% experimenting with new recipes . There was also a flurry of shareable activity online with the rise of TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram food trends both for inspiration and social benefits. This has meant that as we transition into the ‘now normal’, consumers will expect something innovative to wow them, either in experience, or in taste, when they look for somewhere tangible or online to satisfy their afternoon tea experience. Not only does this mean it is now increasingly competitive online, but as we head towards the opening of indoor hospitality on May 17th, venues are also looking for a competitive edge. It’s important to include but-look beyond traditional scones, mini sandwiches and teacakes to benefit from this profitable trend. To help with this, we’ve compiled a list of important trends affecting afternoon tea to make sure you stand out from competition and help boost your sales.
Taste is the most important factor for consumers when buying bakery, patisserie and chocolate. UK consumers love traditional nostalgic tastes but are increasingly attracted (59% of UK consumers ) by unusual and exotic flavours from other parts of the world. The trend ‘borrowed nostalgia’ has amplified during lockdown as consumers have not been able to travel on holiday and thus, have missed particular memories and flavours. As we approach Summer, think about including exotic flavours as options such as tropical fruits and coconut, or taking inspiration from the Continent with Speculoos. Our Taste Tomorrow report found that strawberry, vanilla and coffee are the three most prevalent flavours based on nostalgic popularity but adding some ‘borrowed nostalgia’ will keep menus fresh.
The Taste Tomorrow survey reveals that if taste is ‘King’, then texture is ‘Queen’ . Consumers want to be wowed by all their senses and will pay attention to texture as much as taste. Next to smell, texture has become a key component of a product’s sensory appeal with 62% of consumers looking to try foods with different textures . Think about adding different toppings and fillings to pastries, as this allows you to bring different textures ranging from crunchy to creamy, to juicy.
Afternoon tea already demonstrates many of the elevated experience strands as it’s full of colour, artistic pastry skills, and perfectly baked goods. To stand out, take classic flavours to a new level by adding small twists to recipes that develop something different without being too unfamiliar. Consumers are willing to pay more for gourmet mini dishes including ingredients like truffle oil and gin, and suggesting pairings with speciality coffees, fruity teas and even champagne will also elevate the experience. This applies to plant based offers too; think matcha tea-infused sultana scones with lashings of vegan coconut cream. Hybrid products will also perform well in this format. Think cronuts, cretzels, cruffins or macaringues to differentiate.
Beyond the food and beverage selection, adding a surprise or, story or some unique tableware to the experience can also help make it memorable. Whilst it is not new that younger audiences might want to share their experiences on social media, meeting up with friends they might not have seen in months or years marks a special occasion. Products or venues that are extra innovative and ‘Instagrammable’ or ‘customisable’ are more likely to succeed. Data from Innova Market Insights shows that 40% of UK 16-20s enjoy sharing photos of food on social media vs 26% of adults . Drive consumption by engaging with younger foodies through visuals or experience, think about innovative tea set design that draws inspiration from the colour, style and luxury of the baked goods. You could even pair up with local artists. If delivering online, add the baker or chef’s handwritten note that explains the story, origin and heritage behind the creations. You could even create a specific Spotify playlist to enhance the in-home sensory experience.
Consumers nowadays see food as an expression of themselves. Not only are they very curious about food adapted to their own nutritional and dietary needs, but we can see from the success of Afternoon Tea kits during Mother’s and Father’s Day that consumers want to make the experience personal to them. Results from our Taste Tomorrow survey found that 80% of consumers believe enjoying food is more than just eating it, it’s the whole experience surrounding it . Think about a ‘build your own Afternoon Tea set’, or a ‘customise your message here’ cake. If possible, create a new consumption occasion for your customer such as a VR experience. Convenience also plays an important role in hyper-personalisation so be sure to include mini portions or ‘tear and share’ options in your offerings. For health & well-being, there is growth in calorie counted, high-protein, Keto and Gluten-Free diet options. Luxurious vegan and plant-based experiences are also becoming increasingly prominent within the Afternoon Tea experience and introducing these personalised diets into your range will entice new customers.
Consumers expectations around health continue to evolve. The Taste Tomorrow survey shows that when it comes to healthier food, people want less and more at the same time. 71% of consumers expect fewer calories, less fat, sugar, and salt in products. But at the same time, 60% want more ingredients with health benefits such as fibres and proteins . We find that power ingredients are a key to success. Adding grains and seeds to your bread offerings, nuts, vegetables and fruit fillings to your patisserie offerings and fruit fillings, nuts and superfruits to your chocolates is key.
UK consumers are also split in pursuit of healthy versus indulgent products. 1 in 4 are seeking to treat, reward and improve their mood, while others are indulging less . For those looking to indulge, cookies, doughnuts and cake slices lead the way in this category. Make sure all consumers are taken on a decadent journey with descriptors. Think “velvety soft cake slice with vibrant raspberry swirl and refreshing blend of gin and elderflower with 23-carat gold”.
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