Insights and Trends

Vegan is cheaper

Research released as Veganuary began suggests that people signing-up to try vegan could save money on their grocery bill and spend less time cooking.

Findings from a Kantar study commissioned by Veganuary show that, on average, plant-based meals eaten at home cost 40% less than meat or fish-based meals and take one-third less time to prepare.

Data from Kantar’s usage panel which records online weekly meal diaries from around 11,000 people in Britain showed that for 52 weeks:

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UK Organic market hits highest growth level in 15 years

The Soil Association Certification’s Organic Market Report 2021 has revealed the UK’s organic market is now worth £2.79 billion, after a 12.6% growth in sales in 2020. The market has now reached its highest growth rate in 15 years, outperforming growth in the non-organic sector. During 2020 more than £50m per week was spent on organic food and drink.

Soil Association Certification’s annual UK Organic Market Report 2021 reveals:

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Shop less, buy more

Trends analyst Kantar says the health & beauty sector has gone from the fastest growing (in 2019) to the slowest during the pandemic. The opposite is true for the food sector. Everywhere, people shopped less and bought more per trip.

Beauty products see recovery

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, beauty and personal care was growing more than twice as fast as total FMCG. As a result, some of the biggest global manufacturers were shifting their commercial strategies to focus more on the sector.

But, says Kantar, as lockdowns and social distancing became a new part of our lives, beauty and personal care usage fell. The sector was dealt a heavy blow. And yet, some categories are already showing the green shoots of a recovery.

Before the pandemic struck, beauty and personal care was growing at 6.8% – more than twice the growth of total FMCG (2.9%). Skin moisturisers (10.7% growth) and hair care (8.5%) were the main drivers. These categories had a combined 39% of sector spend and were responsible for over 50% of total growth.

There’s no escaping the damage the pandemic dealt to the growth of the beauty and personal care sector. By the end of September, the value growth of the sector had slowed to 1.1%.

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Where consumers are buying food

For the first time, less than half of Britons (49%) think they will be buying their food from supermarkets in the future – a proportion that has fallen over the last two years (56% in 2018).

The new research forms part of the ThoughtWorks ‘2030 Britain’ study, which explores how people see their world in nine years. The latest aspect of this study looked at the nation’s relationship with food – and the findings suggest that, after a year of pandemic and lockdown, more people are considering buying food directly from food producers or online via non-supermarket brands.

The declining popularity of traditional supermarkets was most noteworthy among younger people with just 32% of under 25-year-olds believing the future of food shopping involved pushing a trolley around a big store (falling from 58% in 2018).

When considering the popular traditional alternatives to supermarkets, 34% of survey respondents liked the idea of getting food direct from farmers or food producers, 21% believed they would grow their own food, and 12% still saw a role for the local independent shop.

Beyond this, technology was seen to have a key role to play in opening up consumer choice. Nationally, 29% thought the future of food shopping was with major online stores that also sold food, 20% thought the future would be more about the delivery of prepared meals, while some believed that by 2030 food would be ordered by online subscriptions (14%) or even artificial intelligence (11%).

This broadening sense of consumer choice is powered by the possibilities that technology opens up. With the vast majority of people predicting their food shopping will be done online by 2030 – via laptop (36%), smartphone (26%) or wearable technology (16%) – so technology empowers more people to make food choices that are more closely aligned to the issues they care most about.

Ditching the meat

Research by Merchant Gourmet, the Leatham brothers’ plant-based brand, shows that more than half of Brits would ditch their favourite meat meal in favour of plant-based alternatives.

If every person in the UK replaced one more red meat meal per week with a plant-based dish, it would reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50M tonnes, equivalent to taking 16 million cars off the road.

More than half-a-million people signed up with Veganuary in the first few days of this year – double the number of people who took part in 2019.

Regional research showed that:

Supplements in demand

The IRI data Market Flash Report, providing data to week ending Dec 12, shows that VMS sales are 23.9% up on the same period last year, demonstrating an upturn in the market throughout the COVID pandemic.

And early indications from the new HFMA Health of the Nation Survey 2021 show that nearly 20 million people in the UK are now taking food supplements on a daily basis.

Healthy rise in snack purchases

Tree of Life noted recently that healthy snacks have seen dramatic growth during pandemic lockdown periods as consumers seek an antidote to stress, boredom or lack of energy.

The wholesaler quoted Kantar data showing that snack sales have surged more than a quarter since the lockdown in March 2020, equating to an extra spend of £133.2m. This boost in sales may have been initially dominated by more indulgent products, but bolstered by the evidence linking increased BMI with poor COVID-19 outcomes, health is now firmly back on the agenda.

New research into healthier snacking commissioned by Eat Real shows that while great taste is now the top key driver for purchase (81%), people are also looking for lower fat content (80%), no artificial flavourings, colouring or preservatives (80%), and natural ingredients (79%). Healthier snacks delivering taste without compromise was also highly rated (79%).

Helen Pomphrey, Marketing Director at Eat Real, says: “Historically, the health & wellness category has translated into ‘compromise’ for many people with a general perception that healthier snacks won’t taste as good as less healthy options. But the availability now of so many great-tasting, healthier snacks is rapidly dispelling that particular myth.”

Educated consumers seek out waste-free food

The UK’s health food retailers have been at the forefront of waste-free dispensing for a couple of years now, so it is no surprise that foodmatters.com made this observation in January:

“Waste-free foods will be the next big thing in 2021, with many turning to bulk-buy and plastic-free shops, growing their own foods out of wastes, and taking steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their food miles. It’s a powerful movement and it’s only going to grow.”

Reducing their carbon footprint will be top-of-mind for many consumers, with cutting back on meat consumption while buying from local sources certainly a priority.

Last year saw a 30% increase in search interest around sustainable eating, including issues such as beef carbon footprint and using a climate change food calculator (source: Google Keyword Planner, global, June–Sept 2020).

With endless information at their fingertips, consumers are more educated about the entire supply chain and its impact on the environment and humanity. They are keen to support the most sustainable retailers with their wallets and are pushing governments to pass laws that encourage sustainable practices.

The sense of urgency around preserving the environment and human rights will only grow. Wise health food retailers are ahead of these demands and are evaluating each of their processes to ensure they are implementing ethical practices.

Better Food, which has a trio of stores in Bristol, brought January sales to its refills by offering 25% off everything in its packaging-free wall.

Ethical indulgence

Chocolate is an indulgence, but at what cost?

A Harris Interactive survey of consumers in September 2020 revealed that 57% of consumers were either very or quite concerned about the ethics of their chocolate, increasing to 65% of 18-24 year olds.

Consumers are looking for chocolate brands that align with their own ethical stance and brands that state their ethical certification or credentials clearly on their packaging or through their marketing and advertising are clearly winning in today’s era of concerned consumerism.

Tree of Life’s snack report 2020 made this observation: “Concern over a brand’s ethics is possibly more prevalent within chocolate than any other snacking category as it relies heavily on the production of cacao in developing countries such as Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Peru, which have historically been linked to issues such as very low wages for the farmers, poor working and living conditions and even child labour.”

Time to indulge ethically...

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