Whether in-home or on the move, consumers are more mindful than ever of the nutritional benefits their choices provide.

According to Kantar, health needs drove 29.3% of all snacking choices in the year to 21st February 2021 (secondary to taste).

Convenience channel data from Lumina Intelligence corroborates this, with 29% of convenience store shoppers claiming to be eating more healthily than they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began and 46% of c-store shoppers trying to make healthier decisions when it comes to snacking.

The significance of this is heightened in the face of the impending government crackdown on products deemed high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) from October 2022.

What ‘healthier’ means to each of us however encompasses a broad spectrum of differing dietary needs, from getting a portion of fruit of veg to products being high in a particular nutrient such as fibre, protein or vitamins, being ‘natural’/ less processed or being lower in fat, salt or sugar.

Allison Wallentin, Convenience Category Manager at Saputo Dairy UK, expands: “The lens on wellbeing is widening and health needs are fragmenting – what ‘healthy’ means for one person may not be the same as to another. This means that for retailers, there’s no one size fits all solution – it’s about offering a selection of quality ‘healthier’ products, at the right price, supported by the right messaging.

“At Saputo Dairy UK we’re committed to supporting consumers’ varied health and nutrition needs – whether that may be a desire to cut down on calories, saturated fat or salt, to consume more ‘natural’ products or indeed to cut down on dairy consumption – through our portfolio of high-quality products and we continually evolve our offering to respond to new and growing trends.”

Avoidance diets, including vegetarianism, flexitarianism and ‘free from’ – within which dairy free is the largest segment – continue to grow in popularity. Indeed, vegans and vegetarians are projected to make up a quarter of the British population in 2025, and flexitarians just under half of all UK consumers.

Kantar recently cited an influx of more than 1.5 million new shoppers to plant-based dairy alternatives in the 52wks to 29th Nov 2020, taking penetration to almost 45%, while in May 2021 a new study published by The Vegan Society reported 12% of respondents claiming to have cut back on dairy and/or eggs intake in the prior 12 months.

The distinction between ‘cutting down on dairy’ vs ‘cutting out’ is worthy of note. According to Nielsen, the majority of consumers who purchase dairy alternative products also buy standard dairy products as well: whilst 40% of GB households bought dairy alternative products last year, just 0.2% bought only plant-based.

Within snacking, Kantar panel data published in March 2021 suggests that having a nutritional benefit (e.g. high in protein/ vitamins) is now the second biggest health need, accounting for 13.3% of snacking choices, while being more natural/ unprocessed accounts for a further 7.2% of consumption decisions.

Furthermore, Kantar revealed that chilled snacks benefit from a health halo: a fresh or chilled snack being almost twice as likely to be considered ‘healthy’ than an ambient one.

A perennial favourite, cheese occupies a unique position in consumers’ hearts and minds when it comes to snacking, delivering on both indulgence – as a tasty and comforting favourite – and on perceived health, thanks to its protein and micro-nutrient profile.

Offering a range of formats to suit any snacking occasion its enduring appeal is evidenced by a 21% growth in cheese snacking occasions in the last year despite a tough year for prepacked cheese snacks, with carried out and food to go occasions falling away for much of the year.

The cheese snacking sector is currently worth £49m in Total Convenience (incl Convenience Mults), with 4 in 10 adults claiming to snack on cheese at least twice a week between meals, and cheese snacks remaining a popular mainstay of kids’ lunchbox and after school snacks.

In response to growing consumer demand, Saputo Dairy UK has placed considerable focus on its Cathedral City Adult Snacking portfolio, which leads the way in the sector. Now worth £15.2m and contributing 37% of adult cheese snacking revenue in total market (rising to 53% in Convenience) the Cathedral City Adult Snacking range includes the top selling multipack adult cheese snack – Cathedral City Minis, which has grown revenue by 17% in the latest year.

In order to maximise this trend Cathedral City expanded its range of nets in June, with the launch of Mini 5s for Convenience & Discounter channels, enabling smaller stores to meet consumer demand for take-home cheese snacks, with an accessibly priced SKU (carrying a lower RRP of £1), offering compelling value to traditional convenience shoppers.

Weight control and obesity made headline news throughout 2020 as the link between excess weight and susceptibility to Covid-19 has been thrown into stark relief; culminating in the government announcing a new obesity strategy in July. With around 1/3 of the UK population claiming to have put on weight during lockdown, more recent months have seen a renewed focus on calorie reduction, with lighter alternatives to everyday staples benefitting.

Within pre-packed cheese, reduced fat products currently contribute 5% of total category revenue in Convenience (excl Major Mults) and have continued to post good growth (c.8% revenue) in the 52wks to 4th Sept vs 2YAGO.

Cathedral City Lighter is the UK’s number 1 brand in lighter cheese and has continued to outpace sector growth in the latest year.

Within Butters & Spreads movement away from low fat and functional health, and towards products that are perceived as more natural and less processed has driven a macro trend towards butter in recent years. Saputo Dairy UK’s Country Life butter and Clover spread are well placed to capitalise on this naturalness movement. Thanks to its simple recipe made with buttermilk, Clover has a buttery taste, and absolutely no artificial ingredients, with just half the saturated fat of butter and at a more economical price point.

A leading UK Spread brand Clover is now valued at £87.8m and holds 25% volume share of sector, purchased by almost 1 in 4 UK households.

Cereal Partners UK has announced it is teaming up with HEART UK, the UK’s only cholesterol charity, to promote the consumption of whole grain for International Whole Grain Day.

As part of the month-long collaboration, Cereal Partners UK will be running a competition on the HEART UK website during November, offering three lucky families the chance to win a year’s supply of Nestlé whole grain cereals.

The charity will share whole grain cereal recipes featuring Nestlé’s newest non-HFSS (non-high in fat, sugar and salt) product – Cheerios Vanilla O’s – as well as Shredded Wheat Bitesize, Shredded Wheat Big Biscuit and Shreddies The Simple One, to highlight new, tasty and convenient ways consumers can incorporate more whole grain into their diets. HEART UK will also focus its November newsletter on whole grain and promote the benefits of a high fibre diet across its social channels throughout the month.

Whole grain is recommended as part of a healthy and balanced diet by the UK Government Eatwell Guide and World Health Organisation due to its high fibre content. Yet, research suggests most Brits are not currently getting enough fibre in their diets.

Toby Baker, Regional Marketing Director – Cereal Partners Worldwide, said: “At Cereal Partners UK, we have always believed in the power of whole grain and are delighted to be working with HEART UK to help increase awareness of its nutritional value in the run up to International Whole Grain Day. Breakfast cereal consumption is a really simple and affordable way to increase whole grain in your diet, and we are proud to be raising awareness of this fact through our online competition and delicious whole grain cereal recipes throughout November.

“International Whole Grain Day is a key date in our business’ diary, and we are committed to encouraging people to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Since 2003 we have taken significant steps to increase the whole grain content in our cereals, as well as making it easier for our consumers to know which of our cereals contain whole grain as the number one ingredient through our green banner labels. Now, all our cereals with the green banner have whole grain as the number one ingredient.”

International Whole Grain Day is an annual event which aims to celebrate the benefits of whole grain and encourage increased consumption of whole grains as part of a healthy and sustainable diet.

Sam Thomas, Head of Category, Upfield UK&I, comments: “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. 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%).

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. 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.

This growth across 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%).

Stu Ball, Category & Customer Manager at KIND, comments: “Coming out of a pandemic, it’s no surprise that shoppers are more motivated by health than ever (IGD, 2021). The global healthy snacks market is forecast to reach £71 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 5.8% between 2020 and 2025. In comparison to traditional confectionery, which is only projected to grow +1% CAGR during the same period (Euromonitor, 2021).”

Research shows that shoppers in general are willing to pay up to 30% more for products with perceived health & functional benefits (Nielsen, 2015).

There is a growing awareness of climate change which is driving a shift towards plant-based diets, with 50% of the UK following flexitarian diets and actively looking for more sustainable alternatives.

“We’ve found sales of protein-focused bars have recovered faster from the pandemic than the rest of the snacking category (Kantar),” adds Ball. “This is a trend that was emerging before COVID and now is a firm sub-segment of the category. With a total of 66% of shoppers actively looking for protein-heavy snacks, it’s key to make clear distinctions in-store.”

KIND has expanded its multipacks offering, growing its portfolio to meet shopper needs. The brand has extended beyond its KIND Core & Breakfast offering to bring the KIND Protein range into multipacks – meeting the increasing demand from shoppers and consumers for healthy snacking options that have a functional benefit baked in.

KIND is growing +14.9%, 13.3% ahead of the category growing at +1.5% (Nielsen RMS, MAT to 09.10.21)

“Retailers need to give healthy snacking and/or free-from the space it deserves in-store, segmenting it by the different consumer needs,” says Ball. “Where possible, this could be done by creating secondary space. As with other categories, the more times the shopper sees healthy snacking products, the higher the chance they will buy-in. Consider a second siting as part of a link deal with water, juice or coffee. Also, try to jump on consumer trends like the push for protein. Our research shows that there are three clear protein sub-segments: performance – highest protein content for the gym-goer; lifestyle – everyday consumers looking to increase their protein intake; natural – consumers seeking a plant-based protein boost.”

Quorn, the UK’s No. 1 meat free brand (Kantar) has big ambitions to help reduce the impact that our diets have on the planet and our health.

Climate change is high on the agenda at the moment after COP26, with consumers looking for more ways to become more sustainable to protect our planet.

“At Quorn, we’re on a mission to create a healthier and more sustainable world and we believe one of the best ways to do that is by reducing the amount of meat in our diets,” says Gill Riley, Marketing Director at Quorn Foods.

“Eating less meat in our diets isn’t just a trend, it’s a necessity to protect our planet. One third of all global greenhouse gas emissions come from the food system, and animal-based foods are responsible for over half of these.

“One of the best ways we can encourage shoppers to eat less meat is to continue rolling out innovative new products that taste great.”

Quorn is continuing its mission to get a record number of shoppers making meat free swaps, with the help of its latest chilled vegan innovation, Quorn Brilliant Bangers (270g, RRP £2.50).

The new vegan sausage is made from Quorn’s super protein, mycoprotein, a unique protein that makes the sausages high in protein and a source of fibre.

The meat free sausages sector is currently worth £49m and is growing at a huge +55.9% YoY, twice as fast as the total meat free category (Kantar).


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