The ease of the squeeze: As austerity ends, how have UK eating habits changed?

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

'There are growing opportunities for products which provide a helping hand for time-poor or novice home cooks such as meal kits or spice kits,' says Mintel. Credit: iStock
'There are growing opportunities for products which provide a helping hand for time-poor or novice home cooks such as meal kits or spice kits,' says Mintel. Credit: iStock
‘Scratch cooking’ is fuelling demand for meal kits - to the detriment of ready meals, soups and cooking sauces - while rising incomes means more snacks, cereals and juices can go premium. Mintel charts the food winners and losers since the end of austerity in the UK.

Increasing numbers of Brits say they are spending more when grocery shopping than those who claim to be cutting back, thanks to rises in real incomes since autumn 2014. 

Senior food analyst at Mintel Emma Clifford said: “Almost one in five consumers are spending more on in-home food than they were a year ago, helping to bolster the value of the market despite the drop in the cost of food. Consumers’ willingness to trade up when buying food is positive news, and premiumisation is evident across many categories."

mintel
Source: Mintel

Over a quarter (29%) of respondents say they are cooking at home from scratch more than they were a year ago, a trend which is being driven by under-45s and parents of young children.

There are clear winners and losers as a result of this 'scratch' cooking trend - the rise of meal kits, which have seen a boom in the US in recent years​ - is one.

"This has spelled difficult times for many prepared products such as ready meals, soup and cooking sauces, but is positive news for products which have a place within home cooking," ​said Mintel.

"There are growing opportunities for products which provide a helping hand for time-poor or novice home cooks such as meal kits or spice kits, and for companies to provide more guidance and recipe inspiration."

There is also a notable interest in ethnic cuisine, and spice kits that can be used to make home cooking sauces appeal to over one third (35%) of adults who are interested in trying more ethnic foods.

Splashing out on superfoods

"Foods which are perceived to deliver on nutritional excellence should continue to benefit from rising consumer spending,” ​said Clifford, pointing to the explosion in ancient grains used in breakfast cereals and snacks.

Meanwhile superfoods are reaping the benefits of the less frugal shopper and are continuing to shape new product launches.Almost one third (32%) of adults are interested in trying health-boosting foods such as chia seeds and spirulina, and this rises to 43% of under-35s, according to the market research company.

superfoods seeds chia seaweed iStock.com  baibaz
© iStock

Beverages can also cash in on premiumisation with cold-pressed, raw and vegetable blended juices and smoothies attracting more interest as well as coffee pods and specialty teas which are all adding value to the market although these continue to play a niche role, said Mintel.

Nevertheless the austerity squeeze is still being felt by many. According to the market research company, 12% are spending less on in-home food. “[This highlights] that the ease of the squeeze on real incomes is by no means felt universally. This rises to 28% of those who describe their financial situation as ‘struggling’ [or] ‘in trouble’ underscoring that despite premiumisation trends, there remains an important place in the food market for low-cost food products, such as supermarkets’ value own-label ranges."

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