Why the grocery market is like an oil tanker
Nathan Ward, Business Unit Director at Kantar Worldpanel, spoke at the NFU annual conference on Tuesday 21 February about what we do know about the grocery market amid the uncertainty of Brexit.
His presentation looked at changes in shopping behaviour and argued that the market is like an oil tanker, where there is lots happening beneath the surface but change in overall direction is slow. Stories of the demise of the weekly shop, for example, very much overestimate the changes being seen in the market. There has been little change in the number of trips made, how many stores being visited or markets bought.
However, in recent years, the discounters and premium retailers have eaten into the share of the major supermarkets and become a focus, with meat, fish and poultry a driver of their performance. Grocery has seen deflation over the last two years, but has recently moved back towards inflation which will drive a different performance in the market; people are unlikely to eat less and more likely to change what they buy, swapping proteins or trading down tiers.
Nathan also covered how consumption is driving shopper behaviour as people seek different things from meals. Consumers want the Masterchef experience in the home but need support and inspiration and are increasingly time poor. Solutions which help meet this dichotomy between a need for taste and quality and a lack of time are more likely to succeed.
Health has also become more important to consumers, but it is not the health of old. Reduction and control are much less important, and the trend is about a longer-term move to natural, less processed foods that complement other healthier options. Aligned to this is the increase in “flexitarian” lifestyles, accompanied by rising sales of meat free products, which clearly presents a huge challenge for the market.