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While the summer holidays are full steam ahead, retailers are beginning to shift their focus to the busy Christmas season. But before the industry moves swiftly on with dreams of mince pies and red ribbons galore, Speciality Food looks back on the trends that have proven to be hits so far this year.
A spike in international cuisines during the past 18 months was down to consumers seeking out flavours they missed due to cancelled holiday plans. Long-time favourites, such as authentic Italian, battled it out with newcomers, like Asian and African flavours, as consumers looked to shake up their home cooked meals.
According to the online retail platform RangeMe, data from more than 12,000 retail buyers and around 200,000 suppliers reveals that restrictions on international travel were driving interest in authentic, global food and drink products from around the world, with popular products including piri piri sauce, stroopwaffles, XO sauce and Naan bread.
Tinned fish hasn’t always had the best reputation in the UK, but according to Waitrose, it became a staple over the summer as consumers branched out to new flavours with longer shelf lives. The retailer reported that sales of mackerel and anchovies both rose 17% in the last year, building on a sales boost seen over 2020. In the first half of 2020, sales of tuna, a favourite for many consumers, soared by 500%.
“Tinned fish is a hugely popular, even elegant, delicacy in Europe, which has reached cult status particularly in the cafés of Lisbon and Barcelona,” said Martyn Lee, Waitrose & Partners executive chef. Plus, tinned food products have the added benefit of eco-friendly packaging. For simple suppers with connections to the Continent, retailers should be sure to take a fresh look at their tinned fish options.
The pandemic has exposed the fragility of the global food and drink supply chain, and as a result many consumers are looking for products that are transparently and ethically sourced. RangeMe found that retailers were making an effort to search for brands with certifications like Fairtrade, Organic or Rainforest Alliance.
RangeMe’s data showed that buyers in general are also seeking diversity, placing a premium on products from suppliers with diverse business backgrounds. The report shows that in the second quarter, the Asian Minority Owned Business certification (USPAACC) trended with food and beverage buyers. Nicky Jackson, CEO of RangeMe said it was “exciting to see the continued interest in and increased search for diverse and minority certified businesses. We seem to be at a real tipping point for supplier diversity to be a staple in our industry.”
The health trend, a staple of the new food and drink landscape during Covid, continues to gather steam as RangeMe reported that ‘plant-based’ and ‘granola’ were the two most popular searches by food and beverage buyers, and CBD was a top search among small to medium businesses.
According to a recent report by Bloomberg Intelligence, plant-based food options are poised to see explosive growth over the coming years, as the sector reaches a value of $162 billion globally by 2030. Vegan meat replacements are showing the most promise for rapid growth.
Although grocery sales are slowing following the boom caused by Covid, figures still remain 9.9% higher in the latest 12-week period recorded by Kantar than the same period in 2019.
However, the average basket size is falling as consumers shift from big weekly shops to more frequent top-up shops. “With the end of social distancing restrictions, people have been happier to head into stores to make more regular, smaller shops,” said Fraser McKevitt head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar’s Worldpanel Division, UK. “Consumers made an extra 108,000 shopping trips this month, while average basket sizes were 10% smaller.”
Food and drink sales through e-commerce have fallen since lockdown ended – around 20% of the population bought groceries online in the latest 12 weeks, the lowest level since October 2020 – but Kantar’s data shows that some consumers who have come to appreciate the convenience of online shopping are sticking with it. This group spends on average more than two-thirds of their total grocery bill online.
“If there’s one pandemic habit that has stuck,” said Kantar’s Fraser, “it is perhaps that cash-free payment is now king.”
Across major grocery retailers, 87% of payments are now made by card rather than with cash, the group reported. “As we shift to cashless payment methods, retailers have been looking to make purchasing as seamless as possible. Amazon launched its new ‘just walk out’ stores, while Tesco announced last week that it is preparing to introduce its first till-less shop, and we anticipate more retailers will follow suit,” he said.
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