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From the emergence of the bright-eyed e-commerce shopper in 2020 to the swift rise of conscious consumption in 2021, the past two years have seen a complete overhaul of consumer shopping habits. New behaviours have taken shape over the course of the pandemic because of the effect Covid-19 has had on consumers’ ideas of health and wellness, their ability to visit shops safely and, of course, their wallets. At the same time, Brexit and supply shortages have played their part in changing the way we shop. To win business in 2022, fine food retailers need to understand who their customers are now.
The price-sensitive shopper
Although the message during the pandemic was ‘we’re all in this together’, Covid-19’s effects have been far from universal. While many home workers saw their savings accounts grow in lockdown, those that were in a less stable position were hit harder by the shut-down of the economy. On top of that, inflation has rocketed in recent months, leaving many households worried about their spending. Two in five Britons (43%) reported that their household income had fallen behind the cost of living over the last few months, according to a poll by Kantar in late 2021. Seven in 10 Brits were very or fairly concerned that the price of fresh food would increase. The British Retail Consortium said food inflation in December had reached its highest rate since March 2019, and fresh food inflation “accelerated significantly” to its highest since April 2013.
How to sell to price-sensitive shoppers
Rather than trying to attract these shoppers by slashing prices, retailers can appeal to customers for whom supporting local businesses is important. Remember to shout about your ethical credentials, such as local suppliers, plastic-free options or community-support initiatives. Focus on your unique selling points too, like on-site experiences that provide families with a fun and affordable day out, and put permissible treats front and centre. “With living costs on the rise, shoppers will prioritise saving on their day-to-day spending to allow themselves occasional treats and do things that they have missed during the various lockdowns and restricted periods,” Dan Gillett, shopper insight manager at IGD, tells Speciality Food. “The more affluent amongst them may look to independent retailers for treat occasions when they replace an out-of-home visit with a special meal at home,” he continues. “If independent retailers can provide an offering specifically aimed at special, treat occasions and make this quick and easy for shoppers, including delivery via quick commerce operators, then they should be able to achieve some success despite a potential cut back on their daily spending.”
The eco shopper
The profile of the sustainable consumer was boosted last year due to COP26, but how big is this opportunity in 2022? According to the Who Cares, Who Does? study by Kantar, 22% of households in the UK are classified as ‘eco actives’, meaning they are highly concerned about the environment and are taking action to reduce their waste, up from just 16% in 2019. The largest proportion (40%) are eco-considerers, who are worried about the environment and plastic waste but are not taking many actions to reduce their waste.
While the eco-active category remains in the minority today, Kantar’s experts say the segment will grow to 40% of all households over the next five years and to more than half by 2029. With conscious consumption on the rise, this group’s purchasing power is only going to grow – and fast. Research by PwC published in December said 52% of respondents were more eco-friendly than six months ago, up two percentage points from its June 2021 survey. It’s estimated that FMCG and consumer packaged goods shopping by eco-actives globally will be worth a stunning $925bn by 2026, up from $446bn in 2021, with a growth rate more than five times faster than the grocery market as a whole.
How to sell to eco shoppers
“For 2022, we expect shoppers to continue with familiar behaviours – trying to limit the plastic they buy and, where they can’t, recycle the packaging that they do have to buy – and looking to the industry and the government to take bigger actions around greenhouse gases, energy use and water use on their behalf,” Dan says. So stress your sustainability credentials, however big or small, and keep your customers in the loop with new changes that you make to reduce waste, cut plastic use or decarbonise. Think about the ways in which you’re already ahead of the crowd, like local sourcing and shorter supply chains. And don’t forget to check out your suppliers’ eco credentials – by stocking sustainable brands, their successes can be yours too.
The digitally savvy shopper
E-commerce is now an expectation for retailers large or small, rather than a nice-to-have. After Covid-19 inspired many to shop online for groceries for the first time, 90% plan to keep buying their food and drink online after the pandemic ends, according to research by Mintel. And it’s not just Generation Z driving the e-commerce industry forward. Out of necessity, many older shoppers began their online shopping sprees, and Euromonitor reports ‘digital seniors’ are one of its top 10 global consumer trends for 2022. “People aged 60+ are the predominant cohort of the top income band, accounting for nearly one-quarter and making older consumers an important target for businesses,” the report said. “Easy-to-use technology and seamless solutions combined with face-to-face communication define the future of digital inclusion for seniors.”
Mobile shopping is on the rise, too. According to research by PwC, 41% of those surveyed say they shop daily or weekly via their mobile or smartphone, compared with just 12% five years ago. With quick-commerce apps like Getir and Gorillas promising deliveries in minutes, the e-commerce landscape is changing fast.
How to sell to digitally savvy shoppers
While speciality retailers’ in-store shopping experiences are focused on exploration, when it comes to e-commerce, customers’ motivators are time and money. “Shoppers value their time more than they did before, having re-evaluated how they spend it over the pandemic period,” Dan says, “and with various financial challenges, they need to economise. Online, this will mean that the winners will be those providing the best loyalty schemes or delivery discounts, those who offer the easiest and quickest service, and those that offer the best guarantee that shoppers will get everything they want in one shop.” And as well as the weekly shop, more customers will be heading online to buy evening meals and food-to-go thanks to the rise in quick-commerce deliveries, Dan says, so don’t forget to cater for these areas too.
The nostalgic shopper
Nostalgia has been a common theme since the pandemic arrived in the UK, and it’s going nowhere fast. Comfort is key, and although health food is used as a way to manage anxiety by the modern consumer (more on this below), traditional meals and retro products provide a dose of comfort that’s hard to beat. According to The International Food Information Council, the prevalence of nostalgia means “all things simple and familiar will guide our food choices, whether it’s the recipes we follow or the snacks we reach for”.
“Nostalgia in Western Europe had been growing in popularity over the past few years, but since the world was beset by Coronavirus, consumers have increasingly turned to the past to give themselves a sense of stability and manage their anxieties,” says Nina Marston, a senior research analyst at Euromonitor International. “Hence nostalgic food and drink products have seen an uptick in demand since the first lockdowns in 2020.”
How to sell to the nostalgic shopper
Stock the classics. Products like Rodda’s Clotted Cream and traditional flavours like chocolate and orange and saw a huge uplift last year thanks to the nostalgia trend. As well as looking for sweet success stories, why not give a fresh twist on classic dishes in your café? Think about ‘next-generation nostalgia’, too. “Since the pandemic, many consumers are deciding that they want to consume more responsibly and ethically,” Nina says. “For this reason, brands can turn to what can be called ‘progressive nostalgia’ which celebrates authenticity and returning to their core values while adapting to modern day ideas about social progress.” Think traditional-flavoured crisps made to sustainable recipes, or nostalgic packaging designs alongside revamped products.
The wellness shopper
Health, wellness and wellbeing are now “a substantial consideration” in consumers’ everyday choices, according to Genevieve Aronson, global head of thought leadership at Nielsen IQ. Immune-boosting products have achieved mainstream status, and gut health claims are boasted by a number of food and drink companies – including in the fine food sector. Mintel predicts that nutrition will begin to be practised as self-care. According to its research, 78% of US consumers say eating healthy is important for their emotional wellbeing. In China, 44% of adults believe having a good gut reduces anxiety. This trend offers food and drink a way to tap into the wellness movement with products that promote ‘mindful eating’ or which boast ‘mood food’ claims.
How to sell to the wellness shopper
Even in their treats, health-seeking consumers will want products that carry a wellness claim – whether that’s adaptogen ingredients like trending ashwagandha and magnesium that promote relaxation, or more familiar botanicals like lavender and chamomile. They’ll be seeking out clean label products in order to cut down on artificial ingredients and promote everything natural. The low-alcohol trend will also continue to make waves as shoppers look to moderate their drinking habits. If your customers aren’t swayed by buzzy superfood ingredients and vegan labels, appeal to classic healthy eating trends with local, fresh produce, grass-fed meat and organic goods.