Nine in Ten Brits Left Wanting More from Food Experience

New research from Canteen at JWT (, an industry-leading food consultancy, has today unveiled a landmark study, mapping consumer sentiment towards food culture across four major markets: the UK, the US, France and Brazil. The study reveals how we really feel about food – including reality vs. fiction when it comes to brands and how they’re measuring up against expectations. Shockingly, almost nine in ten Brits (89 per cent) are left wanting more, stating that their food experience doesn’t live up to expectations, specifically when it comes to multi-sensory (combination of flavour, texture and colour) and creative experimentation. In discovering how diverse the role of food can be in our lives, from wellbeing and creativity to political and sensorial, it’s clearly not easy for brands, businesses and services to keep up today.

Mapping sentiment across a wealth of data points, the index reveals that for 61 per cent of people, big food companies have work to do to deliver a great food experience.  Nearly one in five Americans and Brits (18 per cent), and one in four French (24 per cent) distrust big food brands outright, citing over-processed foods as the main reason (53 per cent), followed closely by brands prioritising profit over quality (49 per cent). Another third (34 per cent) believe that companies don’t care about the quality of their products at all. Despite the growing popularity of independent food companies, one in ten (11 per cent) distrust them because they’re too expensive (30 per cent) and they haven’t been around long enough (17 per cent).

Interestingly, the least trusted food entities in the UK are social media brands (38 per cent), internet food retailers (25 per cent) and meal-kit / subscription services like HelloFresh (25 per cent), showcasing the need for newer models and technology to win over people’s trust.

The FINDEX – which surveyed 3,200 people across the UK, US, Brazil and France with more countries being added to the study later in the year – was created and commissioned by Canteen, a newly launched industry consultancy, and part of J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, whose pioneering food heritage has brought the likes of Mr Kipling Cakes to the world and the Kit Kat’s ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’ campaign as well as the invention of the iconic grilled cheese sandwich for Kraft cheese from its very own JWT test kitchen.

Contradictory to the apparent success of cafés and restaurants boosting sales through social media, such as Coppa Club with its ‘dine-in igloos’ and Maxwell’s, famous for its insta-worthy freakshakes, on average, a third (36 per cent) of those surveyed across all markets are tired of seeing food on social media.  When it comes to family connection, up to half (37 per cent of Brits, 35 per cent of Americans, 34 per cent of French and 51 per cent of Brazilians) believe WhatsApp has replaced family dinners. Sadly, a further third (33 per cent) believe family meals are no longer as important as they used to be with a quarter (25 per cent) stating it often feels like an obligation.

Of all the things that food can do for people, 71 per cent connect it to body and mind, impacting everything from heart to brain and digestion to skin, with nearly half (48 per cent) linking food to strength and energy.  Yet a third (33 per cent) of people feel ashamed for not staying on top of health trends in their food choices and believe that real health benefits at a good cost is undelivered on today. The research indicates that food can do even more for people today with nearly 50 per cent of people saying that cooking and food can empower them, even at times when struggling in other parts of their lives.

And it is probably no surprise that in the increasingly political debate that surrounds us, food is also being viewed by a third (on average 34.5 per cent) of people as something that reflects their values and opinions both political and environmental. Sadly, there remains a gap with food today doing something good for the planet (54 per cent) and from brands that hold a point of view or story (61 per cent).

From a culinary and sensory perspective, 60 per cent of people seek out something multi-dimensional and experimental – textures, colours, spices, flavours yet believe there is a lack of new and exciting ingredients that inspire them to cook. When broken down by gender and country, the index reveals some interesting differences, with more men (53 per cent) than women (48 per cent) in the UK and US enjoying the experimentation of cooking and eating with spice and flavour versus Brazil where women (81 per cent) outnumber men (70 per cent). In France, men and women share their excitement for the spice and flavour (56 per cent each).

There is also a seasonality to what we expect from our food with summer being the time for Brits to enjoy all that is social about food, specifically as an ice breaker and stress reliever versus those winter months when we need our food to work a little harder for our bodies and our minds. So, fire up that grill, invite some friends over and enjoy all that food brings us.

Megan Van Someren, founder of Canteen at JWT commented:

“Now more than ever, food plays an incredibly dynamic role in people’s daily lives. Yet, there is a lot of work to be done by food companies of all shapes and sizes to live up to people’s expectations.  We’ve commissioned this research to not only benefit brands, big and small, to help reimagine their business through the lens of food culture but to also benefit people and the food system overall. Too many people don’t feel their food experiences measure up and we all need to work together to change this.

“Food is a part of who we are as people and I can’t stress enough how important it is that we’re evolving our experience and our relationships with what we eat.”

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