It’s been almost a year since the Coronavirus pandemic virtually stopped the U.S. in its tracks and while the threat of infection is not yet completely gone, people have taken to gathering in small groups for a sense of normalcy. However, widespread social distancing orders are influencing how home entertainers are planning for gatherings, from the food they prepare to the dishes that are put on the table.
“The pandemic has essentially forced home entertaining from coast to coast,” says Jaclyn Steudtner-Colabraro, creative director at The Proppy Shoppe. “The consensus seems to be that this will continue for some time.”
Steudtner-Colabraro says that enamelware has been growing as a segment, as many of these goods are oven-to-table ready, allowing for less mess at the end of a gathering — even one that is smaller than usual.
“People are favoring items that are lightweight, non-breakable and easy to clean, yet also expressive,” she explains while noting that disposable items are predicted to pick up as people begin feeling safer to gather in larger numbers. However, these disposable items will have an eco-friendly bent.
“We’re predicting — and hoping for — a real consumer focus on eco-conscious options. Many biodegradable and compostable products are far chicer than anything plastic and the earth-friendly market continues to grow,” she says.
Steudtner-Colabraro also noticed she has seen a return to simple tableware and items that can be easily mixed and matched.
“With more time to set the table, yet nowhere to shop during quarantine, we noticed a move towards ‘making it yourself’ or ‘making it work.’ [There is a] return to the simple and we forecast more attention on locally handmade pieces such as stoneware tableware, hand-blown glassware and wooden serving platters. In terms of style, we think this will run towards the rustic and minimalistic,” she says.
While some shoppers have gravitated to more upscale tableware goods and even China after spending months serving several meals per day on the same plates, Steudtner-Colabraro explains that the financial strain COVID-19 put on consumers will steer most of them in the direction of elevated but cost-effective items until the economy levels off.
But, she notes, the pandemic put a spotlight on home, housewares and hearth the way it hasn’t in the past. And moving forward through the rest of the year, Steudtner-Colabraro says the skills people learned during their time at home won’t fall by the wayside. In fact, consumers will want to continue showcasing their newfound cooking, baking and cocktailing chops for family and friends.
“With more people cooking, baking and bartending than ever before, it feels that there is a renewed interest in the presentation of their efforts. I predict that plenty of people will have too much pride in their new talents to ever completely shift back to the old normal,” she says.
She adds, though, that presentation is going to look differently, no matter what type of food you are putting on the table. This is due to a heightened demand for safety, cleanliness and hygienic practices, even at home.
“We are seeing a rise in lunch-box type [meals] where everyone is served their food, condiments and flatware pre-wrapped in an individual container,” says Steudtner-Colabraro.