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How have changing lifestyles impacted our relationship with food?

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Australian society has changed drastically in the last few generations, as new technological innovations and cultural shifts have contributed to today’s prevalent lifestyle trends and norms. One facet of living that has been completely changed is our relationship with food.

Whether it’s the composition, the way we consume it, or the way we produce it, our relationship with food has evolved dramatically. With the rise of new processes and innovations, food now encompasses an ever-growing category of dining, production, and consumption.

Amongst the plethora of new options of food products, experiences, and practices, there have definitely been a few select trends that represent a noticeable shift in the general population’s attitude towards it.

Consumers are now seeking a cleaner and more sustainable diet – but this comes in conjunction with an increased demand for convenience. Such trends have led to a demand for easy yet appetising meals, which more and more businesses are attempting to satisfy. From ethical dilemmas to social activities, the evolution of food has become increasingly diverse.

Convenience becomes a way of life

There’s no question about it – Australian consumers are used to instant gratification. Especially as commute times grow longer, working hours extend longer, and our lives become busier – if we’re not eating for a social purpose, we just want a meal that’s quick and easy.

Meal replacement shakes, easily-packaged food and microwave meals are some examples of products that have become popularised alongside this lifestyle shift. The typical counterproductive effect of convenience, however, is that it usually sacrifices health or sustainability.

We can expect businesses to continue to find new ways to present food options that are convenient yet tick the box of providing a good level of nutrition. New services such as weekly food box subscriptions are already providing a solution that more and more people are being drawn to.

Our relationship with food and plant-based diets

Despite some of the negativity surrounding vegans, there has been an increasing interest in plant-based diets as their benefits become more apparent. New restaurants and products are accommodating this growing demographic, as vegetarian and vegan-friendly options become staple items on menus.

This trend of eating clean comes in conjunction with a new wave of interest in pursuing a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. An increased interest in exercise and mental health has followed higher concerns about the contents and production of our food.

Plant-based diets may also be an effect of the increased transparency of meat industry practices and its impact on the environment, following the release of numerous documentaries and social media campaigns.

relationship with food

New configurations of food

As the food industry and its multiple sub-categories become saturated with increased competition, companies are coming up with new experiences and products in order to keep consumers interested and coming back for more.

An emphasis on dining out and social activities surrounding food is becoming increasingly pronounced, as younger generations, such as millennials, are more interested in new experiences. Pop-up stores, food markets, and fusion cuisine are some examples of the novelty food trend.

The rise of social media and documentation of our experiences on such platforms has led to a focus on making food more visually appealing or exclusive, in order to give consumers something to publicise on their Instagram or Twitter feed. On top of that, food is becoming a more social experience, and new dining experiences provide activities for individuals to try and share with others.

Greater appreciation of sustainable practices

Following a rise in education about environmental issues and corporate transparency, Australians now harbour a greater appreciation of sustainable practices in relation to food. More and more individuals are concerned with eating ethically at places which adhere to ethical practises.

Factors such as water efficiency, less wasteful packaging, and better disposal of rubbish all contribute to a business’ environmental impact. As consumer sentiment around environmental issues begins to change to a demand for more ethical processes, restaurants and corporations are taking note.

Initiatives such as donating uneaten food, creating more sustainable packaging, and connecting with ethical suppliers are all part of the move towards social enterprise. This trend is only predicted to become more prevalent as environmental consequences of human activity are becoming more visible in the world around us.

Many factors have contributed to changing societal values, which have resulted in drastic changes in the relationship we have with our food. Overall, there is increased interest in sustainable practices and cleaner, healthier eating, which at least indicates a progress in understanding and addressing the food-related issues we face as a society.

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