WhatsAppened in 2017?

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Introduction

From the rise of veganism to ‘Prosecco gnocchi’, it’s been a big year in the world of food and drink. Those of you who are signed up to our WhatsApp news digest will have joined us on this year’s culinary journey, consuming a daily portion of what we deem to be the must-read stories from the industry.

If you’re not an avid reader, you’re probably hungry to sink your teeth into a summary. We get it: nobody’s got time to read all the news. Luckily, we’ve got a team of consultants who scour the papers and the web each and every morning to make sure we don’t miss a beat. Not only is our WhatsApp digest an invaluable tool for staying on top of the fast-moving news agenda, it’s actually a lot of fun for us to write, and, we hope, for you to read.

As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve rounded-up the stories that stuck in our minds, captured our imaginations, and, for us, defined the year. Here they are:

PR champion of the year

Of all the brands who earned multiple mentions in our WhatsApp digest over the year, it was the fast food joints that ruled the roost. Honourable mentions go to McDonald’s for its strategy switch-up, ‘superfluous’ innovations and long-awaited arrival on the delivery scene, and also to KFC who carried out stunts big and small, with a smile-to-pay initiative, some eyebrow-raising merchandise and a sneaky social nod to their secret recipe.

It was, however, high street bakery and bona fide national treasure Greggs that captured the imaginations of consumers, with a storming year in the press office as well as behind the tills. Not only did they sausage-roll out a new Drive-Thru program, but growing demand for breakfast on-the-go helped them boost sales. Always happys to pushboundaries, Greggs rounded  the year off with an advent calendar of dubious taste - reminding us all giants can fall and an apology goes a long way (note: stress test all creative ideas!).

Supermarket sweep

The ‘big five’ continue to battle it out to hold on to a top spot, with Aldi and Lidl making serious headway against the old favourites due to their passion for produce. Sainsbury’s swung a few shoppers in January thanks to a lively new campaign created by its new ad agency, Wieden & Kennedy.

The discounters went from strength-to-strength throughout the year, finding £1 of every £8 spent in a supermarket in their own collective pockets. They even managed to win over the discount-snobs, with Mintel data revealing them as the top choice for moneyed shoppers and earning a place on Tatler’s shopping guide.

Most WTF story

There have been quite a few stories that made us go ‘eh?’ over our morning coffee this year… so many so that it’s been tricky to pick a favourite. Here are three for you to choose from instead.

The year in edible-headlines

A lot happened this year. Here’s a comprehensive run-down of the stories, trends and headlines that shaped 2017 in food terms. Tuck in!

The war on waste rages on

2017 was the year we ditched our drinking straws and starting considering eating our packaging; both are game-changing events in the war on waste.

For the food industry, packaging has been the main villain, with the revelation that only a tiny proportion of the millions of tonnes of plastic bottles pumped out by soft drinks companies end up being recycled, and the suggestion that fast food packaging may be even worse for our health than the grub itself. Given that Brits eat almost four times as much packaged food as they do fresh produce, this was real food for thought.

Meanwhile, actual food also contributed to the growing waste problem, with the average household binning about £700 worth each year. The unlikely hero in this tale has been the booze industry, with mixology magician Mr Lyan pioneering the ‘closed-loop’ cocktail and Toast Ale putting ‘bad’ bread to good use. Increasing awareness of the issue has prompted big retailers to take note and use their scale to start changing habits, while entrepreneurs look to technology for a long-term solution.

Veganism

No longer a niche dietary option, veganism has hit the mainstream right in the face harder than an avocado from a synthetic leather catapult. Even big brands are on-board with the movement, with Ben & Jerry’s, Carluccio’s, Pizza Hut and M&S all expanding their offerings to cater for plant-based consumers.

But the proof really has been in the shopping, with sales of meat plummeting as fresh fruit and veg replaces it in trolleys and Sainsbury’s giving meat alternatives prime position. All in all, the rise of veganism and its non-committal cousin ‘flexitarianism’ have led to a rise in sales of meat-free products amounting to more than £17.2m.

Booze-free youths

RIP to our country’s reputation for binge-drinking: Brits are drinking less, with our un-unruly youths leading the trend. The attitudinal shift is being dubbed ‘mindful drinking’ and sees those that do opt for the occasional tipple tempted by ‘closed-loop’ cocktails and ‘booze-free’ spirits. It means alcohol brands and the hospitality industry are looking to NPD to stay relevant, with Heineken brewing up a booze-free beer and restaurants looking to ambient tea pairings to cater to wine-shunners. Let’s just hope the country’s much-loved pubs aren’t taking too much of a hit.

Coffee

Speaking of pubs, the country’s become so thirsty for coffee that cafes might soon outnumber them. The UK’s even been experiencing a barista-drought, finding there aren’t enough skilled workers to fuel our addictions. It seems that some of us are even willing to risk getting into trouble at work if it means securing our morning fix. Are we losing our beans over java?

Prosecco

You know a trend has reached full peak when it gets the ‘hybrid treatment’, and 2017 was the year that happened for Prosecco. Some other things that happened were ‘Prosecco pancakes’, ‘Prosecco smile’, and, uh… ‘Prosecco gnocchi’. In fact, it was revealed that we went into 2017 having drunk one third of the entire world’s Prosecco supply in the previous year. But perhaps the trend is headed for the grave - is it even possible to exceed a gnocchi hybrid in the trends stakes? Forbes’ wine columnist seems to think so, as he’s claimed ‘Trentodoc’ is its successor. Bottoms up, then.

Delivery

If you don’t have Deliveroo and/or UberEats on your smartphone homescreen, are you even really a millennial? Both experienced mega-growth this year, employing very different tactics to maintain healthy competition. Deliveroo started the year with the upper hand, but UberEats was ready to expand, and did so by focusing on big restaurant chains, even bringing McDonald’s to your door (we are not worthy). 🙏🏽

Deliveroo, on the other hand, built their focus on local independents as well as launching Deliveroo Editions - a series of delivery-only pop-up kitchens to bring chefs to new post codes.

On the off-chance you can remember how you ordered take-out before Deliveroo and UberEats, the year started out with a story about Just Eat, which came under fire from the Competition and Markets Authority for swallowing up Hungry House - no doubt in a bid to compete with the big dogs on bikes.

And that’s a wrap on the whistle-stop tasting menu of 2017’s food news. We can’t wait to see what 2018 has to serve up.

Team TASTE

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