Throughout the pandemic, consumer behaviours have fluctuated between choosing foods for enjoyment or health and practicality.

As we slowly adapt to the new normal, shoppers are now looking towards choosing more healthy, natural, and less processed foods with the occasional treat.

In addition to shopping for healthier food, sustainability is the second biggest consideration when it comes to food consumers are purchasing.

New research conducted by Flora Plant Spreadable reveals that 27% of Brits are turning to more sustainable alternatives by opting for plant-based products over animal and dairy products in a bid to help reduce climate change (21%).

There are currently 7.2M Brits who follow a meat free diet, which is a 40% growth over the last 12 months, and it’s expected that by the end of 2021 this will increase to 13M Brits.

“Vegans and vegetarians will make up a quarter of the British population by 2025, and flexitarians will make up under half, which will mean consumer shopping habits will gradually shift to purchasing more meat free and dairy free products,” comments Sam Thomas, Head of Category, Upfield UK&I. “This means there are huge opportunities for brands to widen their portfolio of products and capitalise on the changing demand.”

This growth in plant-based eating makes the plant-based sector one of the fastest growing food categories in Europe, with meat and dairy alternatives predicted to be worth €7.5bn (£6.3BN) by 2025, which is up from €4.4BN (£3.7BN) in 2019.

The plant-based category has subsequently seen a +23% growth in plant-based dairy alternatives, with three quarters (75%) of shoppers who have tried plant-based dairy alternatives admitting they’d purchase it again.

In response to the growing trend of dairy free spreads, Upfield launched several products including Flora Plant Spreadable, Vioblock and Viospread in recent months.

Flora Plant has launched a brand-new spreadable alternative to dairy butter, Flora Plant Spreadable. It is fully plant-based, made with 100% natural ingredients, and contains no artificial colours or flavours. It is also vegan, dairy, gluten and lactose-free.

It has 70% lower carbon footprint than dairy butter based on a product lifecycle assessment. The packaging has carbon footprint labelling for sustainable shoppers and has been approved by the UK Vegan Society. The new spreadable product is great for baking, cooking, spreading, and frying, and has the same rich, creamy taste as dairy butter – perfect for BBQs, weeknight dinners and everything in between.

Vioblock is brand-new vegan alternative to dairy butter and is 100% plant based. Made from a blend of high-quality vegetable oils, it’s also fortified with vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and Folic Acid. It provides a fresh and familiar buttery flavour and can be replaced 1:1 in any recipe that requires dairy butter.

Viospread is a dairy-free product that’s perfect for spreading on toast, pancakes, crackers or melted over hot vegetables. The product is fortified with vitamin B12, and is free from dairy, soya, gluten, lactose, nuts, and preservatives.

There is a huge focus on shopping sustainability, as 59% of Brits reveal they will stop buying certain products due to the negative impact it has on the environment.

New research conducted by Flora Plant Spreadable reveals that over half of Brits (56%) believe small changes like changing diet to becoming more plant-based is the main action people will take when trying to reduce their climate impact (56%).

Roisin Witort, Marketing Manager for Snacking at General Mills, comments: “With life now returning to some sort of normal, and more people on the move, the future is looking extremely bright for the snacking market, but particularly for heathier snacks. We have seen a shift in snacking habits as consumers are demanding more permissible options, with healthier snack bars forecast to grow 14% over the next three years as confectionery and sweet biscuits become a smaller part of the snacking repertoire.

“We believe that snacks which boost nutrition through added fibre or protein, those fortified with vitamins, or those that help consumers get their five-a-day or reach certain lifestyle goals will be a key driver for the sector, as shoppers become more health conscious. This trend has been fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, with 80% of consumers saying they will make greater attempts to stay healthier as a result of Covid-19.” The UK’s #1 cereal bar brand Nature Valley offers those added benefits through its core platforms Nature Valley Crunchy, made with 100% wholegrain oats and Nature Valley Protein, which is high in protein and fibre. Those key ranges are major contributors to the brand’s growth at +6.2% vs LY to £57.6M.

Consumers may also be relying on weight management solutions after more than a year of restricted movement and increased indulgence due to the various lockdowns. The weight management snacks category is now valued at £120.7m.

Driving this growth forward is General Mills’ leading weight management brand, Fibre One, which is now the third biggest brand in the category, and a significant contributor to growth at +£6.5million. Famous for its 90-calorie brownie and square range, General Mills made the snack even more enticing last year by reducing the sugar content by 30%, without compromising on taste. The range is delivering +22.7, and has contributed £1.3million to the overall category, over the last 12 weeks.

“The pandemic has also led to more and more shoppers avoiding ‘processed’ and high sugar snack bars, and switching to whole and raw ingredients, such as nuts, fruit and wholegrain,” says Witort. “And consumers are also wanting to know how and where their food has been grown or made.”

Gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan snack bar brand LÄRABAR – made with only simple and real ingredients like dates and nuts – meets the demand for minimally-processed options that suit a variety of lifestyles perfectly.

Nature Valley Full Mix bars launched in the UK, after a hugely successful US launch last year. Available in Peanut Butter & Blueberry and Peanut Butter & Cranberry, the Full Mix range is a truly indulgent, yet wholesome snack with a full variety of tastes and textures in one bar. Packed with berries, seeds, peanuts, wholegrain oats and peanut butter, the bars are high in fibre and a source of protein.

Protein has become a staple branch of snack bars. General Mills boosted its functional snacking portfolio with a Fibre One Protein platform. Research found that 71% of Fibre One consumers are interested in protein but are wary of the high sugar and calorie content of the options currently on the market. The Fibre One Protein bar range is available in two varieties: cookies & cream and caramel, with both flavours already ranking in the top 18% in the Diet Management Segment. Each bar contains 90 calories, 10g of protein and 1g of sugar. The range is the ideal alternative – the bars are low in sugar and calories but taste great and give the perfect protein boost, especially for the pre-and post-gym occasion.

Launched at the start of 2021, Nature Valley Protein Softbakes are available in two flavours – Oats & Honey and Blueberry & Almond. The soft bakes are made with 100% wholegrain oats, barley, are high in fibre and make for a chewy and satisfying eat. 38% of consumers who eat cereal bars for breakfast are looking for protein content; this means Nature Valley Protein Softbakes, which contain 8.4g of protein per bar, meet a specific and previously underserved need.

Matt Collins, Trading Director at KP Snacks, comments: “Whilst health has been a priority for both the Government and shoppers for several years, the Covid-19 pandemic and proposed HFSS legislation has led to more of a focus on healthy snacking. At KP Snacks, we are passionate about doing the right thing by our consumers, and providing people with healthier options to enjoy as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.”

Prior to Covid-19, sales of healthier crisps and snacks had reached a high of £204.2m, before taking a temporary knock as consumers adjusted to lockdowns and new habits. This temporary decline was a reflection of how people’s lives drastically changed and they turned to treats for comfort.

Nonetheless the health segment is now seeing a visible comeback, with +14.2% growth within the last 12 weeks. Unsurprisingly 53% of consumers say they try to eat healthy most of the time and only 1% stating they never try to eat healthily, however ‘healthy’ means different things to different people. For some it’s a focus on positive health e.g. increased protein or fibre, whereas for others, it’s a focus on portion control or calorie reduction.

“Today positive health within the snacking category is seen to be more about ‘managed health’, e.g. things that we can take out of our diet,” adds Collins. “This means that offering products with lower calories, as well as less saturated fat, salt, sugar, and additives, is becoming increasingly more important for snack brands. As a responsible snacks manufacturer, we remain focused on developing, manufacturing, and marketing our products in the right way, promoting snacks as to be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and an active lifestyle.”

Flavour is the no. 1 purchase driver in crisps, snacks and nuts, and healthy snacking is no exception. KP’s popchips core range is worth £35.2m RSV and is growing in value at +12.5%. Coming in at under 100 calories per serving, suitable for vegetarians and vegans, and with a third less fat than the market leader, popchips provides a more permissible snack option without compromising on big flavour.

KP Snacks’ recent NPD has focussed on ‘better for you’ ingredients but with big tasting flavour cues that inspire consumers and add something totally new to the healthy snacking segment. New popchips Veg Vibes is a light and crunchy snack made of chickpea, rice and sweet potato combined with flavours that consumers don’t usually see in vegetable based crisps. The range launched in Sriracha and Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar, guaranteed to meet the bold flavour notes and lasting after tastes that shoppers are looking for.

Plant based eating trends are here to stay, with more consumers actively choosing diets which incorporate more veg and plant based foods. 46% of 25-44 year olds believe it’s healthier and 38% believe it’s better for the environment. The popchips health and flavour credentials have driven the brand’s appeal to date, and the launch of Veg Vibes sees popchips capitalise on the constant evolution of healthy eating trends with a unique vegan snack.

Collins says: “26% of consumers avoid products with artificial sweeteners, and at KP Snacks we are proud to confirm that our range is 98% free of artificial sweeteners. Nuts in particular are perfect for those looking for a healthy snack with natural and functional benefits. Nuts have been recognised as an important part of a healthy and sustainable diet. They are excluded from the proposed HFSS legislation and represent a huge opportunity for growth.”

76% of consumers recognise that nuts provide a positive source of energy and 24% of shoppers are looking to increase protein in their diet. “KP Nuts plays well to these dynamics with its high protein and fibre content, as well as natural vitamins and minerals,” adds Collins. “Since nuts are naturally high in fibre and KP is the UK’s leading nut brand, we believe we have an important role to play in highlighting the fibre content of our nut range to consumers.” KP has rolled out fibre labelling across its portfolio of products and has pledged to use the power of its marketing to help people understand the fibre benefits of nuts and switch to higher fibre alternatives. In 2021 KP Nuts launched its KPow! Media campaign, championing tasty nuts while highlighting the High in Fibre messaging, and encouraging people to consume nuts more regularly.

KP Snacks has also expanded its Healthy range into Premium by launching Tyrrells Lentil Crisps, a wholesome lentil crisp which has launched in two popular flavours; Sour Cream & Onion and Sweet Chilli & Red Pepper. Tyrrells Lentil Crisps are perfectly seasoned with natural flavours, have no artificial ingredients (such as artificial flavours, colours or MSG), and deliver a light crunch whilst containing 30% less fat than regular potato and are again suitable for vegetarians.

Matt Gouldsmith, Channel Director, Wholesale, Suntory Beverage & Food GB&I, comments: “We have seen a long-term trend towards drinks with lower sugar as consumers are becoming more aware of their health and wellbeing. Take-home sugar from soft drinks fell by 43.5% between March 2014 and March 2020 and low/no calorie continues to outperform regular soft drinks, with a 68.6% share of total soft drinks. Wholesalers and retailers should ensure to stock up on lower-sugar drinks such as Lucozade Zero and Ribena Light – worth a combined £46.4M – to capitalise on the ongoing trend towards lower-sugar choices.”

This year SBF introduced Lucozade Zero Tropical and when planning the launch, 84% of the retailers the company spoke to said they would be interested in stocking a new flavour of the drink. The trend for sugar-free drinks and the fact that one in three shoppers would buy more Lucozade Zero if a new flavour was available meant the opportunity for this new Tropical launch was clear, and it has already generated £1.6M for the segment.

Lucozade has brought something brand-new to soft drinks chillers with the exciting launch of Lucozade Alert: a distinctive stimulation drink range.

Available now in Tropical Burst and Cherry Blast flavours, Lucozade Alert contains naturally sourced caffeine and vitamin B3 which helps reduce tiredness without compromising on the great Lucozade taste.

Lucozade Alert is available in 500ml PMP and non-PMP cans which should be ranged within retailers’ current stimulation category in the chiller, away from Lucozade Energy as a unique proposition that caters to a different consumption need.

“One-in-four shoppers are consuming more soft drinks, and £143M has been added to the category through increased multipack sales during lockdown, so it is crucial that wholesalers and retailers understand these trends and cater for these changing habits to continue to see category growth,” adds Gouldsmith. “We have developed a strategy that breaks down the soft drink category into four simple consumer need states:

Enjoyable Refreshment, Uplift & Energise, Special Moments and Positive Choices. Each of these is based on insights and trends that highlight the headroom for growth and these will continue to dictate the market in the year ahead. To increase relevance and expand consumption occasions requires the right pack, in the right place, for the right occasion.”

Carabao’s Taste of the Nation report reveals that the demand for healthier energy drinks continues to grow, as an association with being ‘healthy’ has emerged as the second biggest purchase driver within the category. This is particularly important for wholesalers to consider as the desire to buy lower sugar, healthier drinks is becoming more prominent than ever, with 89% of shoppers expressing an aspiration to eat and drink more healthily.

David Butcher, Managing Director of Carabao UK&I, comments: “One of the most significant consumer trends right now is the quest for good value and healthier products. In order to increase sales growth around the energy drink opportunity, retailers need to ensure their energy drink options offer an attractive price point, especially in this time of economic recession. Carabao’s ‘only 69p’ PMP range is perfect for those consumers who are looking for a healthier alternative with an attractive price point.”

Carabao’s ‘only 69p’ cans give shoppers that instant reassurance that they’re picking up a great energy drink product at a competitive price. Independent retailers should look to improve by stocking up on a range of price-marked and lower sugar energy drinks like Carabao, that not only offer attractive pricing, but contain only 63 calories per can.

“Retailers need to ensure their soft drinks are positioned in a way that makes lower sugar soft drinks easily accessible to consumers, adds Butcher. “Our advice would be to avoid arranging chiller or shelf space by the amount of sugar content, as this could result in shoppers missing those healthier options if they’re not grouped with other products from the brand – ‘brand-blocking’ is an effective technique to apply here.

“Carabao would also encourage retailers to place brands that are exclusively low or no sugar at eye level in the chiller. This will help your shoppers to make healthier choices, by ensuring those brands that are solely focused on higher sugar products are placed far from those ‘easy to grab’ spaces, with premium space prioritised for lower sugar products. If retailers do not offer chilled product, they are likely missing out when it comes to ‘on the go’ purchases, which will become even more relevant now that lockdown restrictions have eased.”

Jon Wood, commercial director of Calbee UK, comments: “We’ve recently launched an innovative new range of plant-based products under the Harvest Snaps brand. The exciting new range for the UK is based on extensive research into the ‘better for you’ shopper’s needs and hit shelves in mid-September.”

The vegetable and pulse-based snacks provide a healthy alternative to traditional fried crisps and snacks, being baked not fried, with under 100 calories per portion and also falls below the proposed government HFSS restrictions which are due to come into force in 2022. Available in two flavours, Sour Cream & Chive Lentil Rings and Thai Sweet Chilli Lentil Puffs, Harvest Snaps meets consumer demand with a variety of pack formats including portion controlled six packs, single handy packs and sharing bags. The entire range is vegan and gluten-free with all green and amber GDAs. We believe that Harvest Snaps not only provides the category with its first plant-based snacking range but is the first to provide retailers with a solution to potential HFSS issues. The handy single pack format is the ideal choice for health-conscious consumers seeking an alternative to traditional crisp options in their meal deals.

“Shoppers are seeking variation post pandemic and will be navigating to different products in store,” adds Wood. “Retailers can capitalise on this by incorporating a variety of flavours as well as new product launches in their ranges. We have recently launched the new ‘Loaded’ range, our first branded snack products under the Seabrook brand. The baked maize snacks are gluten free, suitable for vegetarians and bring a modern, on-trend twist to everyday snacks.”

Loaded, now worth almost £4.2m, has a range of Fries which are available in Cheese & Bacon and Chilli Heat flavour, and the newly launched crispy bite-sized Loaded Bites come in two flavours, BBQ Beef and Sour Cream & Onion. Loaded Bites are available in a 6x16g multipack, 55g £1PMP and 90g sharing bag and Loaded Fries in a 6x19g multipack, 110g sharing bag and a £1PMP bag.

The Seabrook crinkle cut range is gluten-free and vegetarian friendly with all flavours except Cheese and Onion, Cream Cheese and Chive and Canadian Ham suitable for vegans. They are available in single pack formats which is ideal for inclusion in meal deals and perfect for consumers seeking a healthier lunch option that is gluten free and vegetarian.

The better for you (BFY) category is now worth £381m, up +0.2% YOY. BFY enjoys a 12% share of the total CSP market (crisps, snacks, nuts and popcorn) with a penetration rate of 74%.

“We predicted that the better for you category would go from strength to strength as restrictions were eased and consumers embraced attitudes to holistic health once again,” says Wood. “Our new Harvest Snaps range is in line with the widespread consumer trend towards plant-based alternatives and we have high hopes of it becoming the major player in the better for you category.”

With one-third of people looking to eating more fruit and veg as part of a healthier lifestyle (Kantar), convenience retailers are presented with a profit-boosting opportunity to expand their fresh produce offering in store and optimise sales.

“Health is a key consideration for shoppers and has been for some time,” says Polly Davies, Category Controller at Florette UK. “By stocking a beacon brand like Florette, which is currently bought by one in four UK households (Kantar), retailers can make a statement about their commitment to driving a fresh produce presence into their stores.”

With an extensive range of products created to meet the variety of shopper needs, Florette is perfectly positioned to meet the growing demand for fresh, tasty, nutritious products.

“65 million packs of leafy salad are sold each year in the convenience channel (Nielsen), but we know many retailers look upon salads as a ‘nice to stock’, rather than a core offering, so are missing out on a major sales opportunity,” adds Davies.

The leafy prepared salads market in convenience is already worth over £77 million (Nielsen) and shoppers are visiting more frequently to purchase leafy salads (+13.5%) showing a growing appetite for the category in convenience (Kantar).

“Leafy prepared salads don’t just enable consumers to add colour, texture and freshness, they provide a great-tasting alternative to classic vegetables as a side of plate solution,” says Davies. “The convenience shopper has evolved and is expecting more, 6 in 10 conveneince shoppers are in the ABC1 social group so have a higher propensity to spend more on the right products.”

Pia Villa, Chief Brand Officer at graze, comments: “Now, more than ever, shoppers want snacks and treats that fit into their healthy lifestyles, that deliver on indulgence without the extra calories and additives. This trend is fuelling the rise of ‘Permissible Indulgence’ as a regular part of everyday lifestyles.

“We’re on a mission to offer healthier alternatives with our broad portfolio of flapjack cereal bars, cake bars, snacking nuts and on-the-go snacks. For example, our sweet flapjack range gives shoppers a delicious and wholesome snack that feels indulgent and satisfying. Offering a variety of flavours including Lively Lemon and Cocoa Vanilla, the range also taps into nutritional needs – with Lively Lemon including 8g of fibre, and Cocoa Vanilla with 7g of protein.”

Over half of consumers (52%) are tempted by unhealthy choices and identified this as a key barrier to being healthy, but with graze they can enjoy a guilt-free, sweet snack. The brand has recently launched more indulgent flavours such as new Cherry Bakewell flapjack to provide a healthier alternative to the traditional high-sugar Cherry Bakewell Tart.

“Health is incredibly important to shoppers, with 92% of UK adults saying they take precautions with food and drink to protect long term health. In the last 18 months, individuals have prioritised health as many have an increased understanding of the link between health and wellness, and the ability to withstand illness,” adds Villa.

All graze snacks are made using ingredients from nature and the brand never uses artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners or preservatives. The snacks provide a source of fibre and each and every snack contains a benefit such as fibre, protein or vitamins and minerals.

Mark Perry, Head of Category & In-store, Weetabix, comments: “Over the last two years we’ve taken a good look at the cereal bar category and the trends shaping it to ensure Alpen bars are fit for the future, and that our innovation pipeline fulfils a defined role. The Alpen brand has a clear focus for its bars portfolio, coupled with significant investment, new pack designs and all-new products.

“We know that shoppers are still looking for a convenient and nutritious breakfast to give themselves a head start to take on the day, whatever that looks like. Our mornings are still busy so it’s important to be able to pick up something tasty and nutritious when on the move.”

There’s a big opportunity for cereal bars within healthier snacking and the category has recently returned to growth – up 6% in the last three months.

Health is expected to be a growing consideration for on-the-go consumers in the year ahead. The arrival of HFSS regulations will place further emphasis on healthy snacking with retailers reviewing their store layouts and placement of snacking items.



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