We hope you enjoy seeing in this report how you fit into the Hawke’s Bay foodie profile represented by our nearly 500 responders. So, how do we see ourselves when it comes to food?

Relating to food

Clearly food is much more than ‘fuel for the boiler’. We asked about responders’ ‘basic attitude toward food and eating’, where the highest mark of ‘7’ meant ‘I’m very fastidious about the quality and healthiness of the food I eat’ – 41% overall reported ‘6’ or ‘7’. And, not surprisingly, this care in eating increases with age – 24% of those under 30 years old gave that rating, compared to 52% of those 60 years or older.

More on healthy eating to come in this article.

Coming at the ‘foodie’ scale differently, we asked whether ‘Just feed me’ (‘1’) or ‘I live for food’ (‘7’) best described the responder – 43% reported ‘6’ or ‘7’ on the scale. This is more about food as sheer pleasure!

But it’s easy to say one is a committed foodie. How to test the reality?

We asked about enjoyment and ability to cook, with options from ‘No way!’ (‘1’), up to ‘In my dreams I’m a master chef’ (‘7’). The numbers stayed fi rm – 43% again reported ‘6’ or ‘7’ on the scale, with perhaps the surprise that more guys in aprons gave themselves the highest ‘7’ ranking.

So, a quite solid four in ten Hawke’s Bay diners seem seriously committed to food and the way they eat. How else do they show that?

Here’s a table showing how ‘hands on’ we are when it comes to food. We asked folks to simply respond ‘Yes’ to all that apply:

Bake from scratch 85%
Have a veggie/herb garden 82%
Have fruit trees 78%
Compost 62%
Preserve fruit/veggies 57%
Forage 31%
Fish for food 24%
Raise chooks 20%
Hunt for food 11%
Keep bees 6%

Not surprisingly, we noticed some age and gender differences.

Expressing their prehistoric genes, men were almost twice as likely to hunt and fish for food; and less likely to preserve (but 48% do so).

When looking across age groups, with every food-related activity the percentage that participates increases with age, with the exception of hunting, fishing and baking from scratch, which have similar rates across the age groups. The biggest ‘climbs’ in participation from young (under 30) to older (over 60) are having a veggie garden (+28%), composting (+37%), and preserving (+41%).

Of course the most direct way to relate to food is to have a job in the food business.

When we defined that broadly – ‘farmer, grower, cook/chef, waitstaff , food processing, food marketing & exporting, catering, fast-food, take-out, food & farm machinery & services, irrigation, whatever!’ – 25% reported one family member in such a job, another 16% reported two or more. The foundation of our region’s food economy.

Healthy eating

We asked how health conscious respondents are in purchasing and consuming food. On our scale, ‘1’ means ‘Not at all’ and ‘7’ means ‘I’m a health zealot when it comes to my eating habits’. Overall, three out of ten ranked themselves at ‘6’ or ‘7’, and another 44% at ‘5’– a pretty health conscious population. Or at least we claim, in the face of rising obesity levels.

Age is a key factor here, with the dividing line at which we begin to ‘watch what we eat’ appearing to be age 45! At ages 45 to 59, 37% rank themselves ‘6’ or ‘7’ (health zealots), as do 30% of those age 60 or older. In comparison, only 20% of those under age 30 and 23% of those age 30-44 score that high.

Gender too is a factor. Not a single male respondent considers himself a ‘7’ (health zealot); only 17% gave themselves a ‘6’. In comparison, 31% of women rate themselves a ‘6’ or ‘7’.

So if you’re in the health food business in Hawke’s Bay, women over 45 years old are your target market!

With all sorts of dietary regimes to call upon – arguably – promote healthier eating, which do Hawke’s Bay diners prefer? Here’s what they report overall (respondents could tick more than one):

Men seem to prefer low fat and GMO free; women opt for low carb and vegetarian. The two out of ten respondents overall indicating they were vegetarians (plus a few vegans) are worth noting here in sheep and beef country.

A recent Farmers Weekly editorial, titled Don’t ignore vegan threat, sounds the alarm:

“It will be at our peril that we underestimate or ignore the threat from plant protein products being developed to mimic animal-derived meat and milk … “…there will be pressure on animal- protein producers as those promoting plant-based products muscle in. [Ed: I presume no pun was intended.] They will be aided by reinvigorated extremist groups like Greenpeace, Farm Watch and Safe using malicious and deceitful terms such as industrial dairy and animal cruelty to refer to our pastoral farming system.” 

Although eschewing such rhetoric, KPMG’s leading food expert, Ian Proudfoot, does see disruptive change ahead in consumer food preferences, with non-animal protein being a key factor in changing diets and Millennials leading the way. In this survey, 22% of those under age 30 say they are vegetarian and 25% say vegan.

While our sheep and beef farmers prepare for disruption, our respondents claim a more immediate focus than animal protein – and that’s sugar. Far and away the chief diet focus of Hawke’s Bay diners (60%), across age and gender, is avoiding sugar – to their personal and societal benefit, given the dire health impacts of sugar-laden food consumption.

Given the respectable level of food/ health consciousness in our responses, it was interesting to see the level of interest in organic food. Overall, 28% indicated a strong preference to purchase and consume organic foods. Interest was highest amongst those age 30 to 59 years (perhaps reflecting ability to pay higher prices). And women are almost twice as likely as men to prefer organic.

Our farmers’ markets – suggestive of fresh, natural and healthy impulses (except perhaps for those delectable syrup and cream-laden waffles) are also popular, with 64% shopping at them occasionally and 18% frequently. Interest is strong across the age spectrum. Only 15% of women and 32% of men have never been.

Where do we buy and eat?

Dinner is still by far our favourite meal (65%, compared to breakfast at 22% and lunch at 13%). But after that consensus, respondents vary widely in their eating preferences.

Overall, 27% insist they ‘never’ eat fast food, and 16% ‘never’ buy take-out food for dinner. So we have a modest pocket of traditional cook-it-yourself, eat-at-home diners, anchored by those age 60 or older – 41% of those ‘never’ eat fast food and 30% ‘never’ buy take-out.

Larger numbers do both in claimed moderation – 53% buy fast food ‘once or twice a month’, while 62% buy take-out food that frequently.

Hard core ‘fast-fooders’ total 20% (once a week or more), while slightly more, 22%, buy other take-out that frequently. Guys – you can spot our guts – are four times more likely to buy fast food more than once a week. And somewhat more likely to buy take-out … where’s Mum to cook when you need her?

The favourite food for the take-out crowd is Asian, followed by Indian, then ‘gourmet’ meals. Fish & chips and pizza bring up the rear. Wow … did you expect that? Another surprise, more under-30s preferred ‘gourmet’ meals than any other age group, by far. Respondents of all persuasions volunteered huge interest in take-out Turkish (kebabs), with modest demand for sushi too.

Read Jessica Soutar Barron’s The Take- out Evolution in this edition to catch up with the takeaway times!

Sometimes Hawke’s Bay foodies do feel like ‘putting on the Ritz’, which our survey defined as ‘spending $50 per person or more for food and drink’. 49% go out for such a dinner once or twice a month. Only 4% do so more frequently; but 46% not at all (similar across all age groups). Effectively, and disappointingly for our restaurateurs, barely half our population is in the market for more expensive dining.

On that special Saturday night, 32% would prefer a gourmet or winery restaurant, while 29% would dine at an ethnic restaurant.

For that really special occasion, we have F.A.W.C!, Hawke’s Bay’s semi-annual premium food fest, sponsored by Hawke’s Bay Tourism. 29% of respondents have participated once or twice in F.A.W.C! events, 10% more often, and 60% not at all.

What do we spend on food?

We asked: ‘Excluding alcoholic beverages, what is your family’s average weekly food budget, per person, for food prepared at home?’ The average spend was $90 per person ($4,680 per year) – or $180 for a couple and $360 for a family of four. How does that compare with your weekly food budget?

Age makes a difference here. For those under 30, the average spend was $77 per person weekly, those age 30 to 44 spend $81, those age 45 to 59 spend $100, and those 60 and older spend $93.

We also asked whether people consumed beer, wine or spirits with their dinner. Overall, 19% say ‘never’, 50% ‘occasionally’, 18% ‘frequently’, and 14% ‘most of the time’.

Here the gender difference is striking – 29% of men said ‘most of the time’ compared to 12% of women. In contrast, 21% of women reported ‘never’, compared to 6% of men.

Overall, respondents say they spend $22 per week on ‘alcoholic beverages for yourself’ – that’s $1,144 per year. For men the average is $39; for women it’s $20. What’s your alcohol budget?

And of course we love coffees and sweets at our splendid Hawke’s Bay cafes. Respondents say they spend $26 per week on themselves for ‘food/drink consumed at a café’. That’s another $1,352 per year.

So, without those $50 per person special nights out, our average respondent is spending $7,176 annually on food and alcohol. How do you compare?

And we want more

Finally, our survey asked: ‘Are there any food offerings that are missing in Hawke’s Bay – a type of food or restaurant, a food experience?’

You answer first, then check our list.

Our respondents had dozens of suggestions, but these stood out …

1. Japanese … other than sushi … high demand
2. Italian … other than pizza
3. Greek taverna
4. Vegetarian and vegan
5. Malaysian
6. Vietnamese
7. More seaside/riverside eating experiences
8. And a rooftop bar!

A rooftop, seaside bar with first-class tempura … I’d go for that!

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