More than two in five people are now eating alone as consumers favour less involvement with the basic meal-making processes because of increasing time constraints, according to the latest consumer trends information from the Wales-based Hybu Cig Cymru meat promotion agency.
Single diners have replaced couples as the leading category and now make up 42 per cent of meals eaten, with two people dining at 36 per cent, three people at 11 per cent and the typical family of four people represented by only 11 per cent -- just over one meal in 10.
“Kantar Worldpanel 2015 research figures show we are moving year-by-year from a high to a low involvement with our food,” according to Sue Franklin, HCC’s UK market development executive.
“Average meal preparation times are sitting at around 32 minutes, while in 1990 it was 45 minutes and in 1980 it was a full hour.
“A prime example of this consumer change is with the home-made sausage roll. Back in 1984, 61 per cent would prepare pastry and mixture from scratch -- but a mere 6 per cent are doing this 30 years on.
“Quick, speedy food is demanded to fit in with the hustle and bustle of everyday living. People also want more from their food - but they want it now and will pay considerably more for ready made solutions, 5 per cent more for health reasons and 25 per cent more for perceived taste,” said Mrs. Franklin.
“This is putting pressure on primary, premium products like PGI Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef and while there are plenty of options for using both in high end, quick turnaround cooking it does involve some investment in basic skills and knowledge of suitable cuts and both are also incrementally disappearing.
“It is something that is reflected in statistics for the near one-in-four respondents who say they have a night off from cooking or could not be bothered to cook.”
Changes are also said to be in evidence in shopping with discounters gaining 12 per cent and online retailers 8 per cent -- while supermarket stores lost 3 per cent and the High Street 1 per cent.
Butchers, however, still hold a very important place in shopping choices, having more customers than the discounters and providing valuable know-how to customers about choosing and cooking prime meat cuts.