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Whether housing simple ingredients such as chopped tomatoes and pasta for whipping up a meal from scratch – something consumers rediscovered during the pandemic – or pre-prepared staples to save time and effort, the storecupboard has remained a mainstay of people’s food habits throughout history.
But what are consumers looking for in 2022, and how have consumer habits changed over the past few years when it comes to stocking up on essentials?
Tapping into consumer demand
While the essentials are still as popular as ever in kitchen cupboards, consumers are wanting more from their storecupboards in 2022, seeking out sustainability, quality and products that cater to dietary requirements.
Therefore, indie retailers need to be attuned to the trends dominating the market. As Carol Longbottom, part of the marketing team at Suma Wholefoods, explains, “Our range has grown to cater to emerging trends within the food industry, and now has over 100 products including pasta sauces, tinned beans, pasta, rice and oils.
“Each product we create is designed to help consumers who enjoy high-quality food but are also conscious of the environmental impact of their shopping choices.
“For the fine food sector, attributes such as BPA free tins, Organic or B Corp certified brands are increasingly important for the consumer.”
According to Ian Butt, commercial director at Potts’, “Our most popular and most relevant lines now are our 100% recyclable stocks and brand-new cooking sauces in aluminium ‘drinks cans’.
“They allow consumers to shop the same premium products that Potts’ are known for without having to sacrifice making the most sustainable choice. They also come with a pretty significant shelf presence too!”
This is something that Carol has also noticed, as she tells Speciality Food, “Interest in organic and the provenance of food continues to grow. Food retailers should be looking to stock high-quality organic basics, but also stand-out luxury products that can be used to create exciting recipes.
“The move towards flexitarian diets has gone mainstream now, with consumers expecting to see plant-based alternatives alongside meat and dairy options. So, vegan pates, nut butters and spreads are popular.
“It’s important to keep up with new trends like alternatives to wheat flour, for example, oat flour or ancient grains, which offer options for those wishing to reduce or eliminate gluten from their diets.”
Changing consumer habits
The last few years have completely changed the way people shop. From lockdowns during the pandemic to rising inflation causing a cost-of-living crisis, independent retailers need to stay up-to-date with how consumers are stocking up.
As Maddie Grinham, brand manager at Mr Organic, explains, “During the pandemic, we found that consumers were becoming more experimental with their shopping choices in order to re-create restaurant quality meals at home. Products including our baking range, chopped tomatoes and pastas were hugely popular.
“Since emerging out of lockdown, we have seen greater demand for our products aimed at busy cooks, such as our healthier choice pasta sauce range, as shoppers became more time-poor and were looking for quick, nutritious meal options.
“We expect this trend to change somewhat as shoppers navigate the cost-of-living crisis. As consumers start to eat out less and become more conscious of their basket spending, we anticipate increased sales of our cupboard staples such as tinned beans and grains.
“Our beans in particular are showing to be a strong seller, as customers look for a lower cost, plant-based alternative that is both high in protein and low in sugar and salt.”
Claire Harcup, head of sales and marketing at Sun Valley Rice has also noticed that shoppers are purchasing cupboard essentials in this time of uncertainty. “Consumers are certainly feeling the pressure of inflation and looking to cook on a budget. Maintaining a well-stocked store cupboard is key to keeping household food costs down. At the same time, they are in search of a taste the entire family will enjoy, nutrition, diversity of use, and sustainability.”
As a common household staple, “Rice not only checks all of these boxes, it’s a food for all seasons, cuisines, and dietary needs (esp. those with celiac disease). It’s a whole grain that boasts protein and fiber. Perfect for consumers looking out for their health and avoiding processed foods”, she adds.
But just because storecupboard ingredients are deemed staples, it doesn’t mean people aren’t opting for premium quality, as Carol points out. “During the pandemic, we saw people spending more on luxury and specialist food at home because they weren’t going out. The current cost of living crisis is seeing the same, so catering to consumers looking for higher-end and distinctive foods is important.
“As people continue to spend time at home, either for leisure or work, we’ve seen a focus on snacking with nut butters and pates, as well as good quality, tasty convenience food for quick and easy lunches. With this in mind, we’ve extended our vegan convenience range and it’s proving popular.”
Coining this idea of the storecupboard going premium, Ian adds, “With the instability in the economy right now, I think people are set to return to cooking and eating at home. I think the next year could be quite positive for premium UK food businesses, as people refocus their spending on quality grub made at home.
“Given our placement at the premium end of the market, we have always found that the ‘classics’ remain high on peoples’ shopping lists. Lots of us were cooped up and unable to eat out during the pandemic which led to a need for quick and interesting meal solutions at home.
“If you were in a place to offer ‘premium convenience’ products such as we do, there was a huge market for these products.”