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Globalisation Boosts Localisation in Food

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Megumi Matsunaga Bio

Consumers are increasingly appreciating the globalisation of food and its association with experiences. International cuisines are taking increasing share from local cuisines, but the shift to back-to-local is also being seen in many countries. Coronavirus has seen global trends continue to evolve through digital platforms, and local food is playing a new role as a means of supporting local economies, with consumers looking for ingredients that they trust and know best.

The value shift to experience reinforces food globalisation

Can you name a type of local dish which you are confident can be only found in the country or city in which you are based? A food which is only available where you are, that has not yet appeared in multicultural cities around the world? In today’s globalised world, there are not many local cuisines or even ingredients that have not been experienced by foodies outside of their place of origin.

The rapid globalisation of consumers’ diets is largely due to people increasingly valuing experiences over things. In many markets, happiness was often tied to ownership of “desirable” items such as expensive watches, cars and designer fashion goods. Consumers of all generations are increasingly appreciating experiences over things, with a notable shift between 2016 and 2020. The phenomenon is more apparent in larger cities where eating new food – often food from other countries – is one of the most popular experiences.

Food nationalism grows

At the same time, food nationalism is growing as a counter-trend to food globalisation. Consumers are reimagining who they are, and are increasingly appreciating their local culture. Previously neglected local traditions are now seen by many generations as an important part of their history. Consumers are proudly consuming local products not only to support the local economy but also to enjoy the traditional food culture of their locality.

Where the food is coming from is increasingly receiving attention from consumers, not only for transparency but also for food provenance reasons. Consumers are closely checking where the products they buy are produced. Country of origin now ranks high in the ingredients preferences of consumers. Globally, 26% of respondents are closely looking at the countries of origin of the products they purchase. Local flavour and ingredients appeal to consumers who live in today’s globalised world as they seek authentic experiences which are nostalgic to them; they cherish the moment of calm with food.

Flavour innovation: Effective in both globalisation and localisation strategies

Since the mid-2010s, global giants in packaged food such as Heinz and Hellmann’s have been expanding their product portfolios by offering condiments with international flavours (examples include Heinz Sriracha Tomato Ketchup and Hellman’s Brazilian Spicy Churrasco Sauce). Consumers appreciate how easily and quickly exotic flavoured condiments can make their home dining more flavoursome. Sales of condiments increased in every region over 2014-2019.

At the same time, global food players have been active in launching localised flavours of global brands in many markets. For example, Pringles offers crab flavour potato chips in Russia and Soy Sauce Ramen flavour in Japan alongside globally popular flavours, such as sour cream and onion.

Craft brands play a significant role in flavour innovation, often by bringing neglected local traditional flavours or ingredients back to the market. Consumers appreciate engaging with the brand as they can relate to a company's philosophy and their roots.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) threatens the globalisation of food, but will not stop it

Restrictions on travel and going out have been limiting people’s experience of exotic food. However, demand has been met to an extent by digital platforms. While staying at home, consumers are still discovering new food culture by watching cooking and travel shows on Netflix, and experiencing new cuisines from food delivery services, such as UberEats.

Supply disruptions and a shift to localised supply chains will slow globalisation of food to some extent. Amidst health and stress concerns linked to uncertainty about the future, local food is now providing a sense of safety and belonging. The shift to local food is tied to consumers’ emotional state as food is a solution for fulfilling consumers’ emotional needs, as well as nutrition.

However, consumers’ curiosity to learn about other cultures and their appreciation of diversity are not disappearing. For example, by using exotic flavoured condiments to make their meals more exciting or ordering through food delivery services cuisines from countries they dream of visiting, consumers will continue to seek exotic food experiences, especially while international travel is restricted.

For more insight on how local and global food trends are evolving, access our report, Local vs Global: How Ingredient Trends Reflect Cultural Shifts.

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