Although the trend for plant-based options isn’t necessarily new, it’s certainly here to stay. In 2020, we’ve seen an increased demand for meat free products and plant-based alternatives as sustainability and looking after your diet continues to remain a priority for consumers.

Lorraine Rothwell, Baxters European Marketing Director, comments: “At Baxters, we’ve always championed new and innovative products, this year was a key milestone for us as we brought our first ever plant-based range to market. Not only did we want something that was vegan friendly, but we wanted to showcase our commitment to introducing new and exciting recipes that don’t compromise on flavour or nutrition.”

Baxters’ Super-Licious Soup Pots food-to-go range includes classics like Cream of Tomato as well as new flavours like Pumpkin & Sweet Potato, which outperformed expectations to become a best-seller alongside Thai Chicken & Coconut. Within the wholesale channel Baxters’ price marked products perform particularly well, especially the Favourites Soup range.

Baxters has some new plant-based flavours in the pipeline along with a vegetarian range of the microwavable Super-Licious Soup Pots.

Rothwell adds: “As well as an increased demand for convenience, there is now an even greater focus on health. The food industry will renew its commitment to long term public health as shoppers now consider the provenance of the brands they choose and the food they eat, as well as overall food safety. Foods that are accessible to eat outside of the home is another area that we consider of rising importance.”

Although soup is widely considered a healthy product, it hasn’t previously been as accessible to eat on the go. Baxters’ new Super-Licious Soup Pots face up to this challenge by providing a ready-to-heat meal solution which has the added benefit of zero food handling.

“Our advice would be to focus, where possible, on products which address the key concerns of health, provenance and convenience without compromising on quality,” suggests Rothwell.

Baxters will be tripling its marketing spend with an investment of £4.3m into its 2021 marketing plan. Now more than ever, consumer demand has turned towards cupboard essentials and considering the current climate, that’s not likely to change any time soon.

Polly Davies, Category Controller at Florette, comments: “The COVID pandemic has presented many challenges for communities and businesses alike, with everyone having to adapt to changing circumstances and imposed restrictions designed to keep people safe and companies operating. These unprecedented times have accelerated emerging consumer trends and rapidly altered shopper behaviour in the market.”

Recent research from Deloitte Digital shows that 59% of consumers have used more local stores and services to support them during the current restrictions, paving the way to a resurgence in the popularity and frequency of local convenience-based shopping experiences.

“Freshly emerging trends, thanks to a new normal, are spelling good news for grocery and wholesale businesses alike who wish to make the most of growth areas such as fresh bagged salad offerings,” says Davies. Some fast-food outlet salads have been removed from menus for the foreseeable future as they seek to “simplify” their offerings during and after the pandemic. Yet shoppers still seek to meet their healthy living needs through other purchasing trips in the market.

“This presents opportunity for grocery locations to support customers as they seek out cost competitive, ready-to-eat, healthy fresh salad choices,” adds Davies.

The ‘work from home if you can’ recommendation also means increased numbers of consumers are now spending more time making their lunches from scratch at home. A resurgence of scratch cooking and the desire to spice things up in the kitchen mid-week has brought about an experimental era of home cooking. Shoppers are also finding less wastage of their fresh produce as a direct result, and are choosing fresher and healthier options more often – not just saving themselves from wasting food, but helping them achieve a healthier lifestyle in the long run.

“Likewise, eating at home occasions remain important to consumers who have adjusted their eating out habits during the national and local lockdown measures,” Davies continues. “But they are likely to be watching expenditure levels due to worries about home finances. Helping to provide cost competitive inspiration for such occasions will be key for grocery fresh food offerings and help increase basket spend.”

Over 1,000 packs of leafy salads are sold every minute in the UK across a variety of channels and Florette remains the leading salad brand in the category, enjoying the best-selling SKUs across multiple sectors of the leafy prepared salads category.

The best seller in the convenience sector is the Florette Crispy 115g, worth £4.8m annually and growing rapidly (Nielsen). As shoppers continue to visit convenience stores more often (trips were still up 8.7% in August alone), Florette Crispy 115g sales were worth almost £1m in August 2020 (in just 4 weeks in the market). The brand was bought on 30% more trips in the convenience channel this year as shoppers revert to what they know and putting their trust in Florette.

During the four-week lockdown in March, Florette witnessed nearly £10 million of spend on fresh produce and prepared salads switch from main estate locations to convenience stores, as shoppers took advantage of shopping locally for the fresh products on offer. Whilst this may be slowing down as we settle into the new normal, 8.5m more shoppers have bought prepared salad since March than during the same period prior to lockdown (Kantar). With life unlikely to return to “normal” anytime soon, continuing to capitalise on this shopper need for trusted produce brands in convenience outlets will pave the way for long term growth.

To further support the sector, Florette continues to innovate with new product developments that offer increased choice for healthy lifestyles. They include the new Classic Crispy resealable pack – a convenient way to help maintain freshness of leaves.

Relaunches have included Superfood Salad Mixes and the more current ‘Power of Plants’ range. This range includes Superfood Original and Superfood Vitality but following extensive consumer research into changing trends the range has been relaunched as ‘Power of Plants’.

Matt Collins, Trading Director at KP Snacks, comments: “Health conscious consumers want products that are better for them and the environment. When looking for a healthy snack, 37% of shoppers cite ‘brand recognition’ as an important factor. Snacks can be enjoyed as a part of a balanced diet and retailers are following this mindset by giving more range space for lighter alternatives. We’ve been a significant part in this change and through our ‘Taste for Good’ programme have been working on improving the health credentials of our products and the way we market them for a number of years.”

KP’s popchips brand, worth RSV £31.3m and growing in value YoY (Nielsen), comes in at under 100 calories per serving and with a third less fat than the market leader. The flavour-packed core range includes BBQ, Sea Salt, Sour Cream & Onion and Sea Salt & Vinegar.

Hula Hoops Puft is another popular permissible snack option for those 29% of CSN consumers who are looking for healthier snacks (Mintel). Since the launch of Puft, the Hula Hoops brand saw a rise in RSV by +11%, clearly stating the demand for healthier options (Nielsen).

28% of people are also interested in a high protein product like nuts (Mintel). In May 2019, KP Snacks announced the relaunch of KP Nuts which included a pack redesign to call out the protein and fiber contents to appeal to health-conscious shoppers. 76% of consumers recognise that nuts provide a positive source of energy, fiber and protein (Mintel).

Collins adds: “With consumers visiting convenience stores more than ever before, we have the opportunity to increase sales by ensuring KP Snacks offer retailers the right product range in the right case formats, boosted with the right promotions and in-store merchandising. Off-shelf features will help maximise the opportunity to grow sales and retailers can help encourage cross-category purchases by grouping products such as snack foods, bottles of wine and beer, as well as sharing bags of crisps and nuts.”

Susan Nash, Trade Communications Manager at Mondelez International, comments: “We know over a third of consumers are actively cutting down their sugar consumption. At Mondel?z we have a strong track record of offering more portion control options and developing lower sugar recipes for some of our most iconic brands as part of our ongoing commitment to help tackle obesity and help consumers lead healthier lifestyles.”

Mondelez has pledged to bring 100% of its chocolate and biscuit products typically bought for children to under 100 calories, as part of a commitment to helping consumers live healthier lifestyles. For example, recent launch Cadbury Dairy Milk Freddo Treasures contains just 76 calories offering parents a suitable treat for their families.

The company has also committed to bringing all Cadbury chocolate bars sold as part of multipack under 200 calories by the end of 2021. The move will see 10 billion calories removed from the UK market every year. Cadbury bars, Fudge, Curly Wurly and Chomp, as well as Barny sponge bears and Cadbury Mini Fingers and Cadbury Animals are now all under 100 calories.

“As well as providing clear front of pack labelling to help consumers make informed choices at the point of purchase, we strive to empower people with practical tips and tools on how to snack more mindfully and in moderation,” adds Nash.

In 2018, Mondelez relaunched Betreatwise in the UK to bring to life its commitment to mindful snacking. By joining forces with other leading confectionery companies in the UK Mondelez aims to remind people that confectionery is a treat, designed to be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle. During lockdown, Betreatwise helped parents by teaming up with an independent dietitian to offer families simple tips on treating in moderation.

A redesigned Betreatwise logo features across Cadbury packaging and is being rolled out across all Cadbury’s advertising. The logo has been redesigned to be more prominent on pack and act as a visual prompt to remind people to treat in moderation. The logo is also intended to drive people to where they can find practical tips and advice on how treats can be enjoyed as part of a balanced lifestyle and diet.

Matt Goddard, Wholesale Trading Director, PepsiCo, comments: “As we entered lockdown, people instantly started shopping very differently in the impulse channel, with increased visits to local stores. Some of this behaviour has continued, as shoppers continue to use their local store for their top-up purchases throughout the week, as working from home remains the norm for many.”

With many households enjoying taking on new morning rituals as part of lockdown, chilled juice has continued to be consumed at breakfasts, as shown by take-home juice growing by +14% (Nielsen) during lockdown. Tropicana on a whole has also performed well, seeing growth of +5.6%, driven primarily by take home formats +20.8%, where orange juice has performed particularly well +21.4% (Nielsen).

“As we exit lockdown, we expect shoppers to also be on the lookout for smaller impulse juice drinks, as they make their way back in to the office and demand meal deals and make impulse purchases,” adds Goddard.

To cater for this demand, Tropicana offers smaller, convenient juice formats across the range. The 250ml and 300ml bottles have proved to be amongst our most popular sizes, with the core range performing particularly well in the past. Tropicana Smooth Orange 300ml remains the UK’s #1 Instant Consumption Beverage SKU in both impulse and the overall category (Nielsen).

Health has been high on the consumer agenda for some time, and shoppers are looking for juices that contain added benefits. This is why the functional juice segment is currently performing exceptionally well at +25% growth. With the current climate, functional juices will continue to play an important role within a convenience retailer’s soft drinks offering.

Shoppers are also conscious of the sugar content in the products they purchase, with this being one of the biggest barriers to food and drinks purchases, and the highest concern in households with children. 63.3% of shoppers claim that they are trying to restrict their consumption of sugar (Kantar), so to meet these changing shopper needs, PepsiCo launched new Tropicana Lean range which contains 40% less sugar and 40% less calories. The Tropicana Lean launch will appeal to those shoppers who are looking for delicious and convenient products, without having to worry about sugar content.

Mark Roberts, Trade Marketing Manager at Perfetti Van Melle, comments: “Perhaps one of the biggest trends is flexitarianism and veganism. According to Mintel, the vegan market is expected to soar to £1.1bn by 2023, and we saw evidence it is really taking off this year with a record 400,000 people signing up to Veganuary 2020 in the UK. There is definitely more appetite for vegan alternatives, and what was once deemed a diet of lentils and pulses, now incorporates all sorts of new brands and products and a rise of ‘vegan junk food’.”

Even those that are not strictly vegan may be looking to make better, or healthier choices. A restricted diet means shoppers are actively seeking those treats and snacks from their childhoods, or pre-vegan life and are delighted to find those same trusted brands such as Fruittella now playing in the vegan space with the recently launched Gelatine Free range.

“We want to ensure we’re making it really easy for wholesalers to update their stock without compromising on selling opportunities,” adds Roberts.

Many of PVM’s best-loved products come in multi-pack formats perfect for on the go and sharing at home.

“As people seek new ways to enjoy their evenings at home, whether it’s a Big Night In with their favourite treats or snacks, or just a snack pot to keep them focused throughout a day of working at home, our vast portfolio can really come into its own,” says Roberts. “We are fortunate that we already cater to the sharing and stay-at-home market, so haven’t needed to adapt our offering.”

Calli O’Brien, brand controller at Aston Manor Cider, comments: “A key trend is the increased popularity of health-driven drinking options, meaning consumer demand is on the rise for low and no alcohol options, as well low calorie choices.”

The increase in popularity of low/no alcohol options among teepartial and teetotal drinkers is a trend that is set to continue, as more people choose to moderate their alcohol intake or upgrade from their regular soft drink.

According to recent research, 27% of 18 – 35-year olds say they are actively cutting down on alcohol consumption and 56% of the same age range are now consuming more low or no alcohol products (IRI). This provides an increased sales opportunity for the wholesale and retail market.

Aston Manor responded to the growth of no and low with the launch of its own low alcohol version (0.5%) of the award-winning vintage cider, Friels. It’s made using 100% British apples, no artificials and 100% recyclable packaging. Available in 4x330ml cans.

In addition, this year also saw the introduction of Sol Duc, a trio of low-calorie, alcoholic hard seltzers. Sol Duc is all about purity and transparency; in contrast to the fermented alcohol bases seen in some other hard seltzers. Sol Duc is simply sparkling water, a dash of vodka and natural flavouring. The range is available in three flavours – Strawberry & Lime, Raspberry & Rose, and Rhubarb & Ginger (RRP £2) in 330ml (5% ABV) cans.

“The urge to reduce alcohol consumption is also influencing other drink categories,” adds O’Brien. “We are seeing an increase in the popularity of perry as an alternative to wine, with many consumers viewing it as a lower ABV alternative. Popular choices such as Chardolini can be a perfect choice for both wholesalers and retailers to capitalise on this emerging demand.”

Marcus Hudson, sales director at Clearly Drinks, comments: “Demand for healthier alternatives is soaring and shoppers with an adventurous attitude are actively looking for premium quality, zero sugar options with great taste.”

Recent statistics (Mintel) suggests 2 out of 3 consumers proactively try to lead a healthy lifestyle, and new, discerning premium soft drinks shoppers expect differentiated flavour experiences. 44% of soft drink consumers would prefer a low sugar soft drink to alcohol, whilst 74% of premium soft drink users cite taste as a key decision factor at purchase level. Kantar has revealed that the premium soft drinks category is worth £40.4m at a growth rate of 10.6%.

Clearly Drinks, is relaunching drinks brand Upstream with a new packaging design. As more and more consumers are proactively trying to lead a healthier lifestyle, the demand for healthier alternatives to alcohol and sugary soft drinks is rising. With its range of premium adult flavour combinations, zero sugar and only 3 calories per can, Upstream is offering a tasty, more adventurous option without the sugar.

“The adult premium soft drinks category is in growth due to an increase in demand for healthier alternatives,” adds Hudson. “Consumers are looking for zero sugar options with better ingredients, high taste and premium quality. Adult premium soft drinks are therefore adding significant value to the category as a higher value product. Now is the time to give these products more shelf space and is important to place premium soft drinks alongside alcohol on shelf as well as classic mixers to maximise sales.”

Upstream will be supported with an ATL campaign in 2021 including video on demand, digital display as well as an experiential sampling campaign to drive awareness and trial across multiple occasions.

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