Top View Of Happy Young Family With Golden Retriever Dog Resting
top view of happy young family with golden retriever dog resting on grass at picnic

By Brian Brown, President of Ingredient

Pack your baskets and prepare your taste buds because in 2024, picnicking isn’t just a pastime, it could just very well be one of the hottest food trends on the horizon! We’re looking forward to bundles of food, park benches, and checkered blankets popping up everywhere. Give us the fresh air, a good view, and an armload of delectable bites. However, with all that being said, this begs the question: What’s behind the sudden surge in picnicking’s popularity?

The allure with eating outdoors is being fueled by a mix of social and economic factors, like rising restaurant prices and an unconditional appreciation for the privilege to be outside and socialize when, where, and how we want. CPG brands and grocery stores can leverage these factors to maintain relevance and motivate consumer interest. 

Presented below, similar to what’s reflected in our 2024 Food and Beverage Trend Report, are a few key factors propelling the picnicking trend forward, while simultaneously influencing the broader culinary landscape of 2024.

1. Restaurant prices are rising.

While food prices rose across the board in 2023, the forecast for 2024 suggests that food-at-home prices will decrease 0.4%, while food-away-from-home prices are expected to increase 4.7%. 

Even though overall inflation is somewhat slowing, consumers continue to focus on the bottom line and are opting for cost-effective options whenever possible. This makes picnics an appealing option for consumers who want a memorable meal without making a memorable dent in their food budget. 

2. The great outdoors is the place to be

While the practical need to be outdoors has shifted over the last few years, the desire to not be confined to the indoors remains. Not only did people invest in outdoor gear and equipment during the pandemic, they also experienced the mental and physical benefits of being in the fresh air. Add in food, a superb social connector and a delight in its own right, and you have two of life’s great pleasures in one — sharing a meal and savoring the beauty of the wider world. What could be more enjoyable? 

3. Picnics can be curated. 

We live in an age of curation. Consumers today spend a significant amount of time carefully assembling their social media feeds, home decor, clothes, you name it. Picnics can be tailored in many ways, from the food in the picnic basket to the location. Themed picnics are a thing, too. Just plug the terms “Victorian picnic” into the search bar on Pinterest.

4. Picnics are carefree and informal. 

Sharing a meal outdoors is a fun escape from the demands of daily life and the 24/7 stress of the news cycle. Being outside invites laughter, spontaneity, and joy. The only dress code is to wear something comfortable. And while picnickers could go all out with a fairy or Harry Potter theme, the only real equipment outdoor eaters need is a basket and blanket. 

For CPG brands, the picnicking trend is about making outdoor eating seem easy and accessible. To tap into this movement, it’s critical that brands highlight portable snacks, pre-packaged meals, and simple recipes for dishes that travel well across all marketing and social media channels. Grocery stores also have a lot to offer in the age of the picnic — convenient grab-and-go deli options, hot bar offerings, beverages, and more. 

Brands aiming to seize this trend should spotlight portable foods and beverages in their campaigns and embrace the playful, adventurous essence of al fresco dining.

As Ingredient’s president and partner, storytelling is Brian Brown’s superpower. He believes food defines us culturally, socially, and brings us together. Established in 1994, Brown now leads a creative network of nearly 55 food enthusiasts, from professional strategists and process experts, food scientists, designers and developers, copywriters, photographers, videographers, and culinary professionals to inspire connections between brands and consumers. 

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