Market research company Nielsen and retail trade journal The Grocer looked at the fastest-growing products in UK supermarkets and drilled down into the numbers to identify which lifestyle trends are impacting UK consumers’ food and drink choices.
They found that vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian are not just buzzwords; they are making their mark on sales. Meat-free products fuelled the extra £41.9m (€46.2m) spent on chilled ready meals. Brits are also eating more vegetables. Volume sales rose by 1.4% while meat fell by 0.3%.
Consumers want healthy food, and this is reflected in the numbers: free-from is now the UK’s fourth fastest growing category by absolute value (£200.3m or €221.7m) while sports nutrition is the fastest growing category by percentage, up 20.8%.
Even the £247m (€273m) value increase in the soft drinks category is “slightly deceptive” as it is due to the UK’s sugar tax and volume consumption is actually flat.
For alcoholic drinks, consumers want quality over quantity, which is reflected in the rise of smaller, more experiential brands. One of the fastest growing brands under £50m, for example, is Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin.
“The food and drink we eat and the way we consume it is changing,” says Adam Leyland, editor of The Grocer. “Paradoxically, we’re getting fatter but more healthy."
Consumers are drinking and smoking less and embracing healthier options like low-calorie drinks and ice cream but they are also indulging more in treats and snacks and takeaways, added Leyland.
“It’s millennials and Gen Zers that are driving these twin trends,” says Leyland, adding that these younger consumers are also looking for craft, niche and start-up brands.
“This is acting as a wake-up call for the giants of grocery. However big you are, you have to position yourself as an exciting proposition for today’s consumer – or face losing relevance.”