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After two years of lockdowns and restrictions, summer 2022 is set to be the social season with consumers keen to spend quality time and food occasions with their loved ones. This means picnics, BBQs and garden parties are going to be a big opportunity for independent retailers this year.
Philip Linardos, CEO of digital wholesaler ShelfNow, told Speciality Food, “With Covid restrictions drastically impacting the last two years and much-loved social gatherings and events having to be postponed or cancelled, we are excited for our buyers that this year’s summer months will be back to normal.”
Covid-19 changed our perspective on health forever, and consumers are now seeking out products which provide extra nutritional benefits, and are looking to reduce their alcohol and meat intake.
Plant-based and low alcohol
With 7.2 million Brits now eating a meat-free diet and a further 8.8 million looking to cut out animals this year, the plant-based opportunity is huge and consumers will be looking for products to cater for everyone this summer.
Laura Strapp, ambient buyer at Cotswold Fayre, noticed an increased interest in meat-free picnic options this year. “Customers are still looking for traditional foods for picnics, but they are also now looking for vegan alternatives. In the last twelve months, there has been so much development within the quality of meat alternatives such as no-pork pies and this is allowing those who follow a flexitarian diet more options.”
And it’s not just buyers noticing the plant-based trend, as Cristina Pasantes, sales and marketing director at Spanish food supplier Brindisa. She explained, “The three big trends we have seen since Spring 2022 began are customers opting for convenient, plant-based and premium products.
“Our top two sellers over the past two months have been Navarrico Chickpeas and Navarrico Butter Beans – so convenience definitely seems to remain key. Those pulses are cooked to perfection and are ready in an instant.
“Yet more of our plant-based products are continuing to soar in popularity. This month, our classic Tomato Gazpacho is our 3rd highest seller on our own e-commerce website.”
Philip mirrored these thoughts, adding, “During the pandemic, some truly innovative products have come onto the market and at ShelfNow, we’ve seen increased demand from our retail and foodservice buyers for plant-based food and drink, meatless options, European delicatessen items, low and no alcohol and more. The heightened public interest in these products is here to stay and we predict they will prove popular during key summer occasions.”
In fact, low and no alcohol is also set to be a key trend for summer picnics. “In recent years, the no- and low-alcohol sector has surged in popularity, growing a colossal 506% since 2015 [Nielsen],” explains Clare Gibson, marketing director at Intercontinental Brands. “Recently, we have noticed trends towards alcohol moderation and mindful drinking have intensified following widespread health concerns in the wake of the pandemic, leading to a record high – almost half of UK adults (49%) - revealing they don’t drink any alcohol or are planning to cut down soon [Club Soda report].
“Specifically, we have noticed that the rise in non-alcoholic ready to drink (RTD) canned cocktails has been a driving force in this growth, with consumers attracted to their versatility and convenience.” As RTD low and no is perfect for public picnics, this is definitely an area for independents to cash in and add to their average basket spend.
Catering to the trends
Ensuring you hit the 2022 picnic trends could make all the difference for summer success. As Laura explained, “It is a tricky time for consumers financially and they are being more considerate of their spending. However, over the past few years, we have seen a trend in consumers buying items to re-create their home as an entertainment space as opposed to going out.” Therefore, it is important to think about stocking non-food items such as tableware, cutlery, picnic essentials and outdoor cooking utensils alongside your edible offerings.
Christina added that retailers should keep in mind that consumers will be keen to entertain over the next few months and will need all the essentials to do so. “After what has been a bleak couple of years for most people, it seems likely there will be a celebratory atmosphere this summer. As such, we expect entertaining food to see a big increase in popularity this summer. For us, we can feel very confident that products like olives, gazpacho, and chorizo will see a steep increase in sales over the summer months.”
But indies shouldn’t forget about the visuals and must remain flexible, as Laura concludes, “To ensure they can cater to summer trends retailers should be flexible and adaptable to these changes as they appear. It is important that they keep up with new flavours, create engaging displays and make sure they are aware of weather changes that may influence stock requirements.”