2021 shopping trends suggest ‘cooking from scratch’ is off the menu, while indulgence persists

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Some lockdown shopping behaviours are continuing to persist two years into the pandemic. GettyImages/AlexSecret
Some lockdown shopping behaviours are continuing to persist two years into the pandemic. GettyImages/AlexSecret

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Consumer research-focused NielsenIQ has revealed this year’s fastest growing products in the UK, suggesting indulgent treats are on the rise, while cooking from scratch has fallen out of favour.

In 2021, the UK dipped in and out of lockdowns. Consumer shopping behaviour, however, did not always change to align with these restrictions.

According to new data from NielsenIQ in partnership with grocery trade publication The Grocer ​– owned by FoodNavigator’s publisher William Reed – some lockdown shopping behaviours are continuing to persist two years into the pandemic.

While others, such as at-home cooking and eating to recreate the dining experience throughout lockdowns, as well are stockpiling, are starting to wane.

Stockpiling on hold

“Now two years into the pandemic, shoppers are beginning to grow more accustomed to life in pandemic Britain, and this is reflected in our latest top products data,” ​commented Rachel White, Managing Director UK & Ireland at NielsenIQ.

“We’ve seen sales of some of the biggest stockpiling items from the previous year, such as pasta, rice and toilet declining.”

Indeed, sales of toilet roll – a victim to ‘panic buying’ in 2020 that resulted in bare supermarket shelves across the country – have now normalised at a higher level.

empty shelves narvikk
Sales of toilet paper have now normalised at a higher level. GettyImages/narvikk

At the same time, NielsenIQ observed a dip in sales of surface cleaner products (-£39.5m) and soap (-£32.1m) – both which were stockpiled amid the first lockdowns of 2020.

In food, staple products rice and canned fish were amongst the fastest-falling grocery categories of 2021.

And ‘cooking from scratch’ off the menu

It would appear that the ‘cooking from scratch’ trend is also less popular list year than last. Six months out of lockdown, consumers in the UK are taking a break from restaurant-style cooking and eating at home.

The top products data revealed sales of grocery products typically popular with cooking from scratch, such as potatoes, bread, cooking sauces, rice and pasta, have all declined this year. Potato sales have taken a significant hit, dropping -£70.9m. This means that the UK has a new best-selling vegetable: tomatoes (+£22m).

Bread maker Kingsmill (-£39.3m) and rice brand Ben’s Original (-£21.1m) are among the biggest declining brands. And with dishwashing products also in decline, this indicates consumers are spending less time cooking, eating, and washing up at home.

scratch cooking Hinterhaus Productions
UK consumers are taking a break from restaurant-style cooking and eating at home. GettyImages/HinterhausProductions

A potential outlier here is salmon (+£54.4m), which observed a £54.4m growth. The fish product is deemed a ‘versatile, low price meal option’ that has been heavily promoted of late – suitable for ‘out of home’ style dining occasions at home.

Indulgence continues

The fastest-growing products list suggests UK consumers are seeking ‘little luxuries’, according to NielsenIQ. Case in point is two desserts products – Mochi ice cream by Little Moons and cakes by bakery brand Hoppers – which are among the fastest-growing products of the year.

“Consumers are continuing to spend time working and socialising at home, but they are also now looking for more indulgences,” ​noted White.

“This is evident in the supercharged growth of snacking products and confectionery, some of which have been popularised by social media trends.”

Little Moons, for example, has proved popular on social media, with its TikTok account attracting 3.6m ‘likes’. The brand’s mochi ice-cream products saw a +£17.6m increase in 2021.

mochi vasiliybudarin
Mochi ice cream is amongst the most favoured 'indulgent' items on-shelf. GettyImages/vasiliybudarin

Sweet snacking items such as chocolate (+147.7m) and bagged snacks (+130.6m) have also risen significantly, as shoppers spend more time and home and look to treat themselves more regularly.

Beverage trends

Another trend that appears to have maintained its stronghold despite the UK moving out of lockdown is drinking at home. In 2021, sales of lager (+198.9m) rose throughout the year, as did wine (£295.1m), and sparkling wine and champagne (+£227.4m).

The greatest increase was observed in the spirits category (£393.9m), within which Smirnoff vodka (£65.1m) saw the more significant growth.

In soft drinks, energy drinks (+£205.6m) such as Monster (£105.9m), Red Bull (£79.8m) and Coca-Cola (£83.3m) were also among the fastest-growing grocery products.

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