BUFFALO, NY — Consumers prefer small, food-centric gatherings over large events, according to a 2023 shopper insight study by Rich Products (Rich’s).

More specifically, the study found 58% of respondents prefer more intimate gatherings, whereas tracking from September 2023 found that 38% of respondents took part in gatherings of more than 10 people throughout the summer, despite it being a popular season for special occasions.

Even though this data was recorded after the COVID-19 pandemic, Rich’s specified that this shift to smaller gatherings began before the pandemic.

Rich’s study found that not only did the food at these events become a “forum for discovery,” but it also became “enticement for attendance and a conversation starter.” Moreover, the study found 79% of respondents often try new and interesting foods at these small gatherings.

The study highlighted that the Cleveland Research Co. found consumers plan to increase average spending on at-home entertainment to $900 in 2023, up from $800 in 2022, reinforcing the preference of home-based entertainment.

“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.”

As for reasons why smaller gatherings have risen in popularity, Rich’s study found at least 61% of respondents cited casual get-togethers with friends as the most common event they attend (about twice a month or more) while 58% most frequently participate in laid back gatherings such as barbecues, pool parties and picnics, and 40% prefer to stay at home during the holidays.

Meanwhile, the study found major milestone celebrations declining in popularity, specifically that 82% of respondents attend birthday or anniversary gatherings once a month or less and that 44% of respondents rarely attend these major celebrations at all throughout the year.