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Healthy living remains a hot topic amongst consumers, and especially within the food and drink industry.

A recent Mintel report uncovering the attitudes of healthy living amongst consumers highlighted that half of adults say they feel guilty after eating unhealthy food and would like to incorporate healthier items into their everyday diet.

With many trying to better themselves through food consumption, this ongoing trend has put the global health and wellness food market valued at 841 billion U.S. dollars, and yet predicted to further increase to one trillion U.S. dollars by 2026 (Statista).

The healthy living category can encompass a variety of food products, such as naturally healthy foods, functional foods, and superfoods.

Across the UK and Europe, one of the most prominent food-related behavioural trends in recent years has been the increase of fresh, whole foods consumption, particularly fruit and vegetables. With ultra-processed foods being the latest to be shunned in the health limelight, consumers are demanding the freshest and high-quality produce, but also require transparency from the brands and products that they consume.

According to a recent study from Mintel, there will be a further decline in meat substitutes among consumers in 2023, with the cost-of-living crisis leaving less room in households’ budgets for processed plant-based options. With more opting for meat-free meals made from vegetables/pulses, this could also lead to consumers considering moving away from the meatless options and turning to meals packed with fresh vegetables as a cheaper alternative.

The cost-of-living crisis has changed shopping patterns for 68% of consumers, with 32% of Brits concerned they are not getting enough nutrients as a result of their reduced budgets (British Nutrition Foundation). With money-saving at the top of priority lists, this offers brands and retailers an opportunity to send out meaningful messaging to their customer base, offering cheaper yet still premium quality options to bring nutrient-dense produce into their households.

“Consumers have also shown to prioritise certain items during the current budget crunch, ensuring to keep fruit and vegetables on their shopping list, and cutting down on their snacks purchases. With more consumers searching for healthier alternatives, fruit and vegetables may be a more appealing option due to being a less expensive,” comments Nele Van Avermaet, promotion manager Fruit & Vegetables at Flanders’ Agricultural Marketing Board (VLAM).

“Sustainability is also becoming an increasingly important factor for consumers purchasing decisions. One report predicts that a future trend for the healthy living sector could be consumers’ expectations for healthy products to also be sustainable, with the practice becoming a priority to purchases.”

Data gathered by retail data experts Reapp, across a variety of brands within three major British supermarkets revealed plant-based iced coffee decreased in average monthly sales volume by 33.5% YTD in 2023 (4,620 units) compared to the previous year (6,944 units).

The average price per unit inflated by almost 15% Y.O.Y, from £2.04 to £2.34 per unit.

The category has seen yearly sales value decrease by over £40,000 YTD.

Plant-based milk coffee soared to a 61% increase in average monthly sales (22,596 units) YTD compared to the previous year (14,056 units).

The category inflated by over 3% Y.O.Y, seeing an average price of £1.98 per unit rise to £2.05 the following year.

The category saw growth of over £200,000 in sales value YTD, equivalent to a 66% increase Y.O.Y.

Monthly sales volume of free from chilled desserts increased by 3.5% in 2023 (15,793 units) compared to the previous year (12,260 units).

The category saw price inflations of 4% from £3.23 in 2022 to £3.36 in 2023.

The category has seen yearly sales value increase by over £40,000 YTD from £591,500 the previous year to £636,733.

Frozen meat free monthly sales increased by 14% on average YTD (760,200 units) compared to the previous year (666,092 units).

Prices inflated by 8.5% from £2.07 per unit in 2022 to £2.25 YTD.

YTD sales value increased by nearly £4,000,000 from £16,545,000 in 2022 to £20,525,400 in 2023.

Georgina Bradford, Marketing Director Nutrition, Unilever UKI, comments: “There is no doubt we are in a period of transition when it comes to the plant-based meat category after its initial arrival on supermarket shelves – and we have seen some high-profile departures from supermarket shelves with some products not meeting consumer expectations.

“Concerns for the environment and a desire to eat healthily have helped the category rapidly grow in the past decade. These trends aren’t going anywhere and are in fact more relevant than ever.

“Contrary to some reports of doom and gloom for the category, after years of consistent double-digit growth, it feels premature for meat alternatives to be dismissed as ‘just another food fad’.”

When it comes to the recent decline in plant-based meat alternative sales, the data needs to be put into perspective. The category has seen value growth of 7% over the last two years (Nielsen), as a result of people spending more time at home, as well as the ongoing trend for plant-based diets with more flexitarians entering the category.

Environmentally, plant-based meats have a real advantage to win with customers. According to The Food Foundation, meat accounts for the largest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions associated with diet (32%, The Food Foundation). Plus, a recent study by the University of Bath found that plant-based dietary substitutes for animal products are ‘healthier for both the environment and people than the animal products they replace’.

“Plant-based meats’ higher retail price can be a barrier to some shoppers, especially in the current economic landscape,” adds Bradford. “Yes, there is currently a price gap between animal and plant-based meat, but premium brands, such as The Vegetarian Butcher, have invested heavily to deliver excellent taste and nutritional products. This means we can offer strong value for consumers who do not want to sacrifice anything when they swap animal meat for plant-based alternatives and is why premium brands hold the market share and grow in a recessionary environment.”

“Consumers are placing more importance on healthy lifestyles, a balanced diet, and general wellness,” explains Neil Stewart Head of Marketing – Cheese at Saputo Dairy UK. “Many are now actively seeking out great-tasting healthier snacks in preference to more traditional products and over recent years we’ve seen naturally nutritious, protein rich snacking products, such as cheese, become increasingly popular. More and more retailers are realising that healthier snacking can deliver healthy sales, and over 6 in 10 shoppers want to see healthy snacking options at their local convenience store (Harris Interactive).”

Reflecting this increased demand, the cheese snack sector has achieved an 8% value growth in Total Market in the latest year (IRI).

Stewart adds: “Cheddar in particular is naturally nutrient rich – high in protein and a good source of calcium, both of which contribute to healthy bones, as well as other vitamins & minerals. Cheese can deliver an indulgent, sensory eating experience while also fulfilling a widely recognised role as part of a balanced diet. Via our Cathedral City Minis range and grab and go Snackbars, we are supporting consumers with a range of portion (and calorie) controlled snack-sized products. In fact, Cathedral City’s Cheese Snacking range has delivered +6% value growth in Symbols & Independents in the latest 52wks vs YAGO (IRI).

“In addition to protein and micronutrients, calories have also been a long-standing marker of what constitutes a healthy snack. Products that support this, such as our Cathedral City Minis and Cathedral City Nibbles, which offer a 100% natural snack that is high in protein, a source of calcium and contains fewer than 100kcals per portion have a real opportunity to capitalise on this momentum.”

Gill Riley, Marketing Director at Quorn Foods UK, comments: “As the UK’s No1 meat free brand (Circana), it’s always been our goal to drive the meat free category forward, not only to get more shoppers eating less meat, but to lead the change for a healthy and more sustainable future.

“Shoppers associate Quorn products with quality, great taste, health, and sustainability; qualities that have become synonymous with the brand as it continues to be a beacon in the category.

“The high level of trust and loyalty shown by Quorn fans is a major benefit to retailers, and we continue to invest in award winning campaigns and innovative NPD to attract more consumers.”

Quorn’s range of products across chilled and frozen cater perfectly to shoppers looking for great value, convenient and easy-to-prepare meat free meals, which taste amazing and are better for the planet.

As economic uncertainty continues to impact shopping habits, value for money is increasingly impacting shopper purchase decisions, alongside the ever-present health and sustainability considerations.

One of Quorn’s biggest recent launches was its vegan Deli Style Slices. The range includes Quorn Yorkshire Ham, Roast Beef, Finely Sliced Ham, and Roast Chicken Style Slices, that can be enjoyed by the whole family for a quick and tasty packed lunch at home or on the go.

The Deli range has been a game changer for shoppers looking at simple meat free swaps that don’t compromise on taste. In research, the products matched on several metrics against meat equivalents, including their ‘succulent meat-like flavour’.

Launched across multiple major retailers last year, the range is already worth more than £2.4m (Circana). It’s also backed once again this year by the award-winning ‘So Tasty! Why Choose The Alternative?’

campaign, using the iconic trio of puppets to reach millions of consumers and show that there really is no better choice, helping retailers drive sales of their Deli range.

Rustlers, the £107.1m (Nielsen) chilled ready meals brand from Kepak, has launched a meat mimicking ‘Chick’un’ fillet to meet increasing demand from shoppers following flexitarian diets.

The Rustlers Meatless Maverick Chick’un Fillet comprises a plant-based ‘chicken’ fillet with vegan mayonnaise in a soft seeded roll – tapping into QSR trends while satisfying taste and convenience needs.

“Coated chicken dishes have long been a staple on the menus of QSRs, with the sector now expanding into offering meat-mimicking alternatives to their best sellers. Similarly, chicken is a core protein within micro-snacking worth £23.5.m (Nielsen) identifying an opportunity for the retail channel to compete with QSR,” says Elaine Rothballer, Head of Marketing Consumer Brands, Food Division of Kepak Group.

“Research shows that meat free is evolving. Shoppers are looking for balance between meat and meat free consumption in their diets rather than cutting it out completely. NPD and availability make it easier for consumers to go meat free, emphasising the opportunity Rustlers Meatless Maverick Chick’un Fillet presents.

“The Rustlers Meatless Maverick range offers great value within the meat free category whilst still bringing the taste, convenience and quality credentials associated with Rustlers.”

Rustlers’ latest launch joins the Meatless Maverick Classic Burger to become the second in the Rustlers Meatless Maverick range.

Florette, the No.1 brand in the UK’s £610 million leafy prepared salads market (Nielsen) is highlighting how many retailers risk missing out on sales in the chiller by reducing their range of fresh produce this winter.

Martin Purdy Commercial and Marketing Director at Florette UK, says: “Salad is synonymous with summer. As temperatures rise, prepared salad sales grow exponentially with the demand for lighter eating with a fresh accompaniment like Florette becoming a staple. However, many retailers aren’t aware that there is a real appetite for the category all year round. Being naturally healthy, it never loses its relevance and it is highly versatile as either a tasty and colourful side of plate accompaniment or an addition to sandwiches or wraps.”

Retailers stocking the market-leading £31m (Nielsen) fresh produce brand can also benefit from a second smaller sales peak each year in the run up to the festive period.

Florette supplies a market-leading range of fresh salad products, including household favourites Florette Classic Crispy (140g and 90g) and Florette Mixed (125g).

With 24 million (Nielsen) packs sold annually, consumer awareness of Florette is also on the rise, boosted by this year’s £1m marketing campaign reaching 8.6m shoppers. Spearheaded by sponsorship of Food Network, the UK’s only dedicated food TV channel that reaches over 5.2 million people each month, the campaign has connected Florette to some of the biggest chefs and food writers in the UK.



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