Top consumer trends for 2006

By Anita Awbi

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Trade

As the year draws to a close, analysts predict next year's biggest
trends in food retail.

According to Datamonitor, the decline of the home-cooked meal is set to accelerate in the New Year as more and more Brits opt for ready-made options or choose to eat out.

The on-the-go food industry is predicted to rise to £8 billion, representing an average of £170 per person next year.

And the ethnic food sector also is poised for a boom, rising from a market value of £1.4bn to £5.3bn over the next three years.

The UK accounts for more than half the total European packaged ethnic food market, and is the only European country where these goods account for more than 1 per cent of the total packaged food sales. Indian food is currently market leader.

But foods marketed as 'natural' are also steadily growing in popularity, say market researchers Mintel, thanks to a hazy understanding of the term that is often associated with health.

Globally, about 5 per cent of new product introductions are flagged as 'all natural', according to Mintel.

And the number of 'natural' claims for 2005 is expected to achieve slightly higher levels to 2003 (476), indicating that food producers and retailers are increasingly tapping into the trend for healthy, functional foods.

"We've started to see a slow, steady build in the number of launches over the last 24 months, and this suggests a longer-lasting trend than fad products,"​ Mintel analyst David Jago said.

"But its a very grey area,"​ he added, explaining that the term 'natural' is also confused with 'organic' and 'ethical' in consumer perception.

Infact, more consumers shopping in mainstream channels are buying products that use 'natural' on packaging, as they see it to be closely related to 'healthier'.

And with the average British waistline expanding, 61.6 per cent of consumers are now overweight or obese, compared with 54.2 per cent Europe-wide.

This is driving the diet and health food industry, which is expected to reach £5.3bn by 2009, representing an expenditure of almost £90 per head each year.

Retail analysts predict ethical concerns will boost the organic and fair-trade markets, influencing the choices consumers make for premium fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat.

The number of loyal organic consumers is predicted to increase dramatically to 36 per cent of the population. In market terms the growth will be staggering - from £4.5 million in 2004 to more than £21m in 2009.

Recently both Tesco and Asda have borne the brunt of fair trade campaigns by NGOs ActionAid and War On Want, aimed at raising consumers' awareness of the retailers' supply chain policies.

And a growing number of businesses are recognising the commercial value of ethical trade policy. Food giants Nestle has introduced Partners, a fair trade coffee brand, and Cadburys has acquired ethical chocolate company Green and Blacks.

Related topics: Market Trends

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