The rise of food as an experience

The rise of food as an experience

The concept of food as an experience is all about the notion that food offers more than just nutrition and sustenance. Instead, it’s also intertwined with emotional experiences, with memories, and with social life. Food as an experience acknowledges that food consumption evokes sensory and emotional shifts – and offering a more holistic experience can have positive effects on people’s moods, lives, and social bonds. 

As more people recognise and articulate the beyond-nutritional power of food, food as an experience is an emerging field of the F&B industry. Innovators are offering customers enhanced experiences that are centred around food, but also weave in other elements. 

What are the building blocks of food as an experience?

  • Social togetherness. We all know that food experiences are often also social experiences – and that sharing food can create and strengthen relationships. Food as an experience acknowledges this, and makes the social aspects of sharing food more distinct and important: from sharing the same meal to comparing notes, and describing particular elements of a dish to one another.
  • Senses and emotions. The sensory aspects of food (including aroma, texture, and taste) drive memorable food experiences, and evoke memories and emotions that create connections between the person and the experience.
  • Personal growth and self-knowledge. Food experiences can offer customers an opportunity to look within themselves. They can practise mindfulness as they notice details about a dish, and join up the dots between sensory inputs and emotional responses. In this way, food as an experience hones in on the potential of food to increase self-knowledge and help people understand themselves.
  • Design. Food experience design is carefully developed, because design is recognised as a route to increase well-being and shape the overall experience of consuming the food. Research shows that in order to have a positive impact and avoid unintended negative consequences, food design must be appropriate and relevant for the specific consumer group it’s created for.
  • Universal enjoyment. Food as an experience is rooted in the understanding that food offers enjoyment to everyone – regardless of who they are, where they come from, or the experiences that have shaped their lives. At the same time, it’s understood that different experiences are interpreted differently by various consumer groups – so food experiences must be sensitively tailored.

Food as an experience influences decisions in various segments of the F&B industry

Yes – some food businesses are overtly offering food experiences; like ‘dining in the dark’ restaurants, where your food is served and eaten in complete darkness; and edible food sculptures that feed the imagination first. 

But actually, the concept of food as an experience isn’t just driving a wave of theatrically-influenced dining offerings; it’s influencing the way food is offered to consumers across a wide range of industry segments. 

Food delivery services, for example, are taking into account the importance of experience when it comes to doorstep and home delivery, providing enhanced convenience through order-tracking apps. And grocery chains are elevating the food shopping experience, particularly the hands-on experience of choosing fresh produce, by designing feel-good produce aisles that allow shoppers to smell, touch, and even taste food before they put it in their basket. 

Understanding the link between human emotions and food is important for F&B businesses across the industry – because proactively enhancing the links between food experiences and emotional experiences can help to drive customer satisfaction and – by extension – loyalty. 

If you want to explore the edges of what’s possible when it comes to experiencing food, we’d love to see you at InFlavour 2024. On a practical note, you’ll have the opportunity to explore how other businesses are integrating new experiences into their food distribution services. And on a personal level, you can expect to experience food in new and exciting ways – and reignite your passion for the culinary arts. 

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