Consumers Prefer Casual, Food-Centric Gatherings

Rich Products released findings from a 2023 shopper insight study.

December 18, 2023

Global food company Rich Products released findings from a new 2023 shopper insight study that found small, food-centric gatherings with grazable options continue to rise  among consumers. The study also showed that the trend of small, at-home social gatherings has continued to persist post-pandemic, with over 58% preferring more intimate gatherings over large events.

“Over time, home entertaining has shifted away from formal dinner parties to more casual social events with smaller, bite-sized food options, which not only impacts food and beverage buying behaviors but also manifests in how and where people gather at home,” said Amanda Buonopane, senior manager of strategic insights at Rich Products. “For example, we’re seeing the ‘disappearing dining room’ trend among the younger generation. They prefer open floor plans with more flexibility for guests to grab a snack while socializing around the kitchen island.”

While the shift to casual gatherings began before the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence has accelerated and evolved from larger social occasions where food is present to small entertainment-focused gatherings around TV shows, sports games and game nights where food is a social catalyst.

The study also found that the food served at gatherings often acts as an enticement for attendance and a conversation starter among guests. Seventy-nine percent of those surveyed said they often try new and interesting foods during these gatherings.

Celebrations in general are getting smaller. Rich’s consumer tracking from September 2023 shows that only 38% of respondents took part in gatherings of over 10 people throughout the summer months, despite summer being a popular season for special occasions like birthdays and graduations.

Most consumers also prefer to gather for no reason at all. At least 61% of consumers Rich’s surveyed cited casual get-togethers with friends as the most common events they attend (about twice a month or more), with 58% noting that they participate most frequently in laidback gatherings like barbecues, pool parties and picnics.