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In times of uncertainty, food has the power to bring people together

Mintel’s Joel Gregoire on the power of food to unite
people eating dinner together
Grocers and food manufacturers can promote togetherness and help offer a countervailing narrative.

Based on world events, 2024 is shaping up to be a tense year. It’s hard to get around this. Despite perceptions, however, there is more that unites us than divides us. Food, in this respect, can be a unifier.

The late Anthony Bourdain believed food had the power to bridge gaps between cultures and nations. The celebrity chef documented his food-related travels, showcasing how sharing a meal could connect people with similar aspirations and concerns, regardless of their differences.

For food brands, this philosophy holds potential in these times. A meal is not just about sustenance; it represents connections, exploration and understanding. While difficult to quantify, individuals innately recognize this, as gathering for meals has been a fundamental part of human history.

In an era where connection is needed, food brands face the challenge of effectively conveying this message. How can they harness the power of food to foster unity and create compelling experiences?

Drawing inspiration from close connections

When Canadians are asked where their meal ideas come from, Mintel data shows 50% say friends and family hold the most influence over their food choices. Technology’s influence is growing, but it’s our loved ones who shape our culinary preferences.

Moreover, an overwhelming majority (79%) of Canadians agree that “cooking with others is a good way to connect.” Surprisingly, it’s the younger generations — gen Zs and millennials — who embrace this viewpoint the most, debunking the myth of their indifference towards cooking skills. While digital devices are integral to their everyday lives, cooking offers them a sensory-rich experience that screens cannot replicate.

By recognizing the power of sharing meals with friends and family, food brands can tap into the emotional and social aspects of cooking to deepen connections and bring people together.

Exploring beyond our comfort zones

Looking beyond our immediate circles, cooking becomes a gateway to experiencing other cultures. Around 80% of Canadians believe “trying new international foods is a way to better relate to other cultures and heritages.” Furthermore, more than 70% consider food as a vital tool to connect with their own heritage. International cuisines are not only an expression of exploration, but also a means to reconnect with one’s roots and personal identity.

For grocers, international foods can become bridges between cultures in Canada’s multicultural mosaic. These culinary offerings provide an opportunity to foster understanding, respect and celebration of diverse heritages. Creative media campaigns and social media initiatives can amplify the message of unity, as showcased in the popular YouTube series, No Borders, Just Flavors. Featuring young first- and second-generation immigrants cooking family recipes, this competition-based show brings people together, while showcasing and embracing the delicious diversity among cuisines.

In 2024, should broader tensions persist, grocers and food manufacturers can promote togetherness and help offer a countervailing narrative.

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s May 2024 issue.

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