The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many to reflect on the importance of their health and wellbeing. In the travel sector, guests are returning to hotels with a renewed focus on wellness—not just the cleanliness of their room but also their nutrition. As leisure trips continue and business travel returns, travelers will be looking for stability on the road and to keep up their daily routines. To better accommodate these travelers, hotels will need to provide a variety of food and beverage (F&B) options that meet guests’ demands for healthier choices while maintaining the taste and convenience that travelers have come to expect. Below are four trends from recent International Food Information Council (IFIC) surveys to help hotels prepare for guests’ return and cater to shifting F&B preferences.
Emphasis on Nutrition
According to results from IFIC’s 2021 Food & Health Survey released in May, some of the notable trends that IFIC reported early in the COVID-19 pandemic last year have begun to abate. Just under three-quarters of U.S. respondents (72 percent) reported some change to their eating or food preparation habits because of the pandemic, compared to 85 percent a year prior. Fewer people said they are cooking at home more than usual (47 percent in 2021 vs. 60 percent in 2020), snacking more (18 percent in 2021 vs. 32 percent in 2020), and eating more in general (11 percent in 2021 vs. 20 percent in 2020). But even as consumers are returning to some of their previous habits—like eating out more and cooking at home less—they remain focused on choosing nutritious options, according to the survey. Among notable trends in this year’s survey results, 73 percent of U.S. consumers said they are confident in their ability to choose healthy foods, and consumers are increasingly defining “healthy” foods as those with “good” components like nutrients, fruits, and vegetables (27 percent in 2021 vs. 17 percent in 2016).
Results from another IFIC survey released in June emphasized the importance of ingredients to consumers’ F&B purchasing decisions; 63 percent of adults reported that ingredients have at least a moderate influence and 62 percent said they are focusing more on ingredient lists than they did five years ago. Nearly half of U.S. respondents said they seek out natural flavors at least some of the time, 41 percent seek natural sweeteners, 40 percent seek natural preservatives, and 35 percent seek colors from natural sources versus artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, and preservatives, which nearly half said they avoid at each at least some of the time. While concerns around ingredients largely centered on health (26 percent), other reasons ranged from environmental concerns (7 percent) to digestive issues (7 percent), ingredient sensitivities (6 percent), and food allergies (5 percent).
Taste Reigns Supreme
Taste remains a critical factor in tandem with nutritional value. Take yogurt—a mainstay among hotel breakfast options and grab-and-go F&B marketplaces; an IFIC survey released in June found that among U.S. adults who consume dairy at least a few times a year, the most popular top reasons for consuming yogurt were taste (among the top three for 48 percent of respondents), health benefits (among the top three for 38 percent), and nutritional value (among the top three for 37 percent).
More than 4 in 10 consumers (42 percent) believe their individual choices around food and beverage purchases have a moderate or significant effect on the environment, according to IFIC’s 2021 Food & Health Survey. The foods that has the biggest impact on the environment, according to respondents, included meat and poultry (24 percent), bottled beverages (14 percent), and fresh fruits and vegetables (8 percent). Nearly a quarter of adults said they have been eating more protein from plant-based sources in the past year.