Trend Perspectives by Cynthia Maxwell

Post-2020 has opened our eyes to all the ways we can socialize via the internet. Consumers became savvier in the last year when it came to their phones and computers-managing the ins and outs of online communication-but we still need more connection time!

Food has been central to bringing people together for as long as we know, and online platforms are consistently coming up with creative ways to offer these cyber food-gathering vibes. Even forward-thinking companies and restaurants have expanded their customer base through online events, reaching beyond their targeted customers. With dinner parties reducing in size, supper clubs put on hold now is the time for more inventive digital social food events.

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VIRTUAL TRAVEL + FOOD

I have to start with the "global guide to local eats" called Culinary Backstreets. Backstreets offer food-guided tours that, of course, stopped with this past year's travel restrictions. The company is easing back into their tours now, but they have also been offering City Guide Virtual Tour Boxes for purchase. Pretty genius as you can purchase a box of food, spices, and souvenirs that includes a virtual tour of the city from which these items originate. The Mexico City box is fantastic and fun! "Hosted by our local guide Paco de Santiago, who curated the box, the video takes you through the Mexico City backstreets to get a deeper sense of the products in your box, the people behind them, and their role in neighborhood culinary culture. It's our way of bringing Mexico City a little bit closer to you." - Culinary Backstreets.

Some of the box items included are alegrias, an energy bar made from amaranth, pumpkin seeds, raisins, and Sal De Gusana, a spice traditionally sprinkled on mezcal. Coffee from Nayarit, a city in western Mexico, and mole from a family-run business. The food and spices are great, but the Lucha Libre' Mask is an excellent touch, celebrating professional wrestling in Mexico City and supporting local crafts vendors.

Culinary Backstreets offers City Guide Virtual Boxes for Barcelona, Lisbon, Marseilles, Athens, and Naples. These are excellent gifts pre, post, or no travel and a great date or family night event.

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COMMUNITY LIVING ACTIVITIES

Job losses have impacted many and rental properties are taking a hit. Apartment communities are amping up amenities and activities to keep from having to lower rent in 2021. Creative virtual events are one area of interest. Online book clubs, bingo, and fitness programs are bringing residents together digitally. Wine tasting and pizza kits that support local restaurants can be reserved and picked up on the day of the virtual instructional event. This means of social connection creates opportunities to meet people in the community, and who knows, you might even see your book club buddy while out on a walk!


THE VIRTUAL BAKE SHOP

Food Demos were all over the internet in 2020, and they will continue to trend high into 2021.

When it comes to paying for a demo, small numbers, register-only events are becoming an even better way to enjoy at-home cooking- and a famous chef conducting the class makes it even better.

Joanne Chang, James Beard Award-winning baker and owner of Flour Bakery + Café, added Bake Shop, a series of online baking classes, to its website. A small number of customers can purchase kits that provide a shopping list, recipe card, and a zoom link to the live class. Students can also ask questions as they learn how to make pies and tarts, sticky buns, or donuts.
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Chefs and restaurants will have to continue to make these online events desirable, and class participation is an excellent way to add value and prevents consumers from defaulting to free demos.

We are just at the beginning of virtually socializing with food, and these events will be even more unique in the future. The connection to a famous chef and restaurant remains appealing, and exposing consumers to different cultures will increase the desire to try global influenced food and beverage.

Hopefully, we will all be able to hang out together again soon, but for now, we have some healthy ways to gather, have fun and even learn a thing or two!

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