Packaged food sales increase in ‘two-speed’ Western Europe

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Chilled pasta took 28% of the total Western European pasta market last year, compared to 25% five years earlier
Chilled pasta took 28% of the total Western European pasta market last year, compared to 25% five years earlier

Related tags: Europe, Finland, Euromonitor

The Western European packaged food market has grown 5% since 2009, with chilled pasta, sustainable foods and frozen yoghurt leading the way, according to Euromonitor International – but Europe is still a divided market.

Speaking with FoodNavigator, Euromonitor lead analyst for Western Europe, Dimitrios Dimakakos, said: “We have a kind of two-speed Europe. The northern and Scandinavian countries are doing really well but southern countries are still slower.”

On a global basis, consumers are expected to buy an additional 90 calories per person per day by 2019, the market research organisation says – good news for food companies, but the opposite of what public health advocates would like to see.

“This is a tricky and sensitive subject, especially for manufacturers. They want to sell their products,”​ said Dimakakos.

“The way they are innovating is by releasing smaller portions and reducing calorie intake that way.”​ However, he added that growing incomes were also leading to increased food purchases in some countries.

“People continue to eat more because there are more available products …Disposable incomes are getting higher and higher again and this means more consumption.”

Health vs. indulgence

When it comes to consumer desire for healthy products versus their desire for indulgence, he said bite-sized formats for sharing help strike a balance.

“We believe there can be a balance,”​ he said. “For instance, people want to consume some chocolate during the day but what we have seen so far is the increasing demand for smaller portions.”

Regional variation

Dimakakos and two Euromonitor colleagues are due to present research on packaged food trends at Tuttofood in Milan on Monday, May 4, where they will highlight Turkey, the UK and Scandinavian countries among the highest growth markets for packaged foods in Europe last year.

Ice cream was a particularly strong category, with 2% growth in European retail value sales last year – and 27% growth in frozen yoghurt, where Sweden outperformed all other markets, with a staggering 104% growth in 2014.

“In Sweden, ice cream is considered to be a kind of dessert while in the south of Europe, it is quite seasonal,”​ Dimakakos explained, as some of the weakest markets for ice cream sales were Italy, Spain and Greece.

Meanwhile, free-from foods are moving toward the mainstream in Norway, and he said “convenience reigns supreme” in the UK, meaning that ready meals and on-the-go breakfast products were performing well.

Chilled pasta

Chilled pasta is another area that has seen strong growth, moving from 25% of the pasta market in 2009 to 28% last year.

“It’s mainly because consumers consider chilled packaged foods as tastier, healthier and more convenient,”​ he said. “…We expect to see more flavours coming soon, adapting to local tastes.”

Traceable products

Finally, Euromonitor pinpointed sustainability – and traceability in particular – as a growing trend in European packaged food.

“We read every day in the news about the risks and challenges, and the pressure on the climate and whole ecosystem,”​ said Dimakakos, adding that traceability is synonymous with food safety for many consumers.

“It depends on the category. With fish and meat there’s higher demand for traceable products. There’s also great demand for Fairtrade cocoa…Also consumers are becoming more informed about the production process and are becoming more sensitive. They want to pay a bit more and know it will make a difference.”

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