The growing popularity of afternoon tea

“According to OpenTable, bookings for afternoon tea have increased by 54% over the past two years, and it has been found that 20% of the UK population now expect afternoon tea to be a standard offering on the menu.

Whilst the traditional afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and sponge cakes remains a popular choice, brands looking to capitalise on this developing market should consider ways to diversify their current afternoon tea offering.

Vegan Afternoon Tea – An opportunity to upsell

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“One area to look at is the vegan market which is currently going from strength to strength, with research suggesting that the number of vegans in the UK has risen by over 360% in the last decade and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Sales of Bidfood’s vegan products have increased by 24% to date this year, suggesting veganism is gaining serious traction and is far from just a fad. Additionally, we are seeing a much broader audience purchasing vegan products, with 6% more customers buying into the vegan range than last year.


“Typically, afternoon tea is not a vegan-friendly occasion, with milk served with tea, and sandwiches and cakes traditionally laden with butter and cream. There is, however, a huge opportunity for businesses to tap into the growing vegan consumer base by providing much needed food and drink alternatives. At Bidfood we have

already sold three times more plant-based milk than last year, and this looks set to become the norm. Our range of vegan products also includes a wealth of viable and tasty protein alternatives, including vegan cheese, pulled jackfruit and mock duck – all great for filling wraps and sandwiches made with our vegan-friendly speciality breads. What’s more, the speciality vegan drink sector is growing, with brands such as Rebel Kitchen and Ugly offering great soft drink alternatives, and vegan prosecco serving as that special add-on to afternoon tea. Using these products is a fantastic way to elevate your traditional offering and provide something unique to vegan customers.

Allergen Afternoon Tea Alternatives

“Afternoon tea can also be a minefield for other free-from consumers and caterers should be doing more to avoid alienating this audience. The UK has some of the highest prevalence rates of allergic conditions in the world, with over 20% of the population affected by one or more allergic disorders. In response to this, an increasing number of products are being reformulated to eliminate allergens and Bidfood’s Own Brand team is continuing to minimise allergens present in our range. These food items have been carefully adapted and undergone extensive taste tests to ensure the end product hasn’t been compromised in terms of taste and texture.

Gentleman’s Afternoon Teas

“Typically, afternoon tea experiences are aimed at female consumers who commonly opt to enjoy them with friends as a special treat. Why not use Afternoon Tea Week as a chance to launch a ‘Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea’, focussing on foods that may appeal to this demographic, for example a variety of ‘pub snacks’, from mini steak canapes to premium sausage rolls. Pair this food selection with a choice of craft ales and you might just find you’re attracting a new audience into your site.

“At a time when afternoon tea is generating a certain hype in cafés, patisseries, restaurants, hotels and pubs, it can be difficult to stand out above the noise. By tapping into demographics that are often overlooked, you can showcase a unique offering and differentiate your business from the crowd.”


By Nikki Smith, campaign and activation manager at foodservice suppliers and distributors Bidfood

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