It’s ”Trends 2023 Time” in the World of Food & Grocery Market Research!

Come November, come an outpouring of consumer trends for the upcoming year from the influential market research firms of our world (see end for sources). They’re very welcome but overwhelming and, so, here’s some words which you can read with a cup of coffee where we hope we catch their essence.

Trends come and go in all shapes and sizes but Christmas is more predictable!

Across the globe, it looks like tough trucking for many families throughout 2023 and 2024. Early resolution of the war in Ukraine would be welcome (albeit unlikely), together with an acceleration in reduction of other inflationary pressures but expected mortgage rates of 6+% in many countries will be devastating for millions of families. The cruel prospect of should we “heat or eat” will be the grim reality for many this Winter. As a result, the principal focus for many families will be searching for the best value, i.e. low prices. In so-called advanced economy UK, The Money & Pensions Office identified that 25% of those surveyed had less than £100 ($120) in savings – it looks like a bleak Christmas!

Consumers are saying “I want to buy food products that reflect my values and the social issues I’m concerned about but I want them at prices I can afford”. They’re concerned about both their physical and mental/emotional health (e.g. help me sleep better and reduce my anxieties) so seek products which offer affordable nutrition but make sure the health benefit claims are simple and direct. Consumers have “eagle eyes” when selecting food products and want few, natural, authentic ingredients. They may compromise on requirements for “Grab & Go” “Fuel Food” but want to know where/when/how and by whom was it produced for “Story Food” when the meal components are the hero/heroines.

Mars-owned KIND:  in touch with trends on health, clean labels and care for the community.

All the trend setters identify sustainability concerns as being central to many consumers with carbon reduction, global warming, plastic pollution, food waste and deforestation in the top 5 positions. Some consumers want to be more involved with the companies that produce the food they eat as in – tell me more about the ingredients, farming methods, packaging, company stand on big issues such as slave labour, and supporting local communities. They want to know that businesses have plans to improve performance on these social issues but want them to be honest about their progress, acknowledging that Rome wasn’t built in a day. The harsh fact is that, in the face of a cost-of-living crisis, consumers reluctantly compromise on their principles and search for the lowest prices – in the UK, animal welfare-friendly meat, organic, fairly-traded and even local food sales are all down significantly on the previous year. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the “green bar” continues to rise for producers of food and drink products but, particularly for the coming year, it’s challenging to gain a price premium for getting over the bar and more likely that one will be price discounted for being under!

Walmart freezes prices for income-strapped customers in the USA.
“Big Food” is often in the cross hairs of consumer activist groups. Here’s Mars, showing that in tough times beleaguered four-legged family members may need a helping hand!

The evolution of the plant-based market is expected to continue. The “mega-brands” such as Beyond Meat and Oatly have failed to light up the market and financially have performed disastrously. Bye-bye “fake” meat? No, bye-bye expensive, poor quality substitutes with ingredient lists as long as short books! Not withstanding the expected success of  Veganuary (only 6 weeks away), veganism isn’t growing significantly but flexitarianism certainly is. It’s driven by younger, better educated, higher income consumers who are pleased to dip into “no meat meals” and, as they age, they’ll take this habit with them. Watch out for “Regenuary” (Google it!) riding on the coat tails of the increasingly fashionable “Regen Ag movement”.

Waitrose Food and Drink Trends 2022/23

Economic crisis – cut out indulgent treats? Far from it. “Revenge Spending” is an expected trend, with consumers seeking affordable treats to brighten up their day. You’ll notice those treats are becoming smaller in size such that manufacturers can meet margin targets. Generation Z and younger Millennials are expected to lead the charge driving demand for new flavours and formats both in old favourites and exciting novelties. Digital interaction via the likes of TikTok rules the affordable communication waves. Watch, too, for strong demand for premium protein purchases at the food retail shelf as consumers with culinary skills elect to dine out at home, instead of the restaurant. There’ll be more eating at home because of the continued popularity of WFH (working from home). Tight although household budgets may be, demand for “quick quality” meal and snack solutions will continue to be strong whether purchased from the store, local food service outlet and/or delivered by a man on a motorcycle/bike! With high heating costs in some countries and solitary working from home, opportunities have emerged for WFP/WFC businesses – pubs and cafés (with excellent Wi-Fi) offering mini-packages (e.g. access to a table, coffee, pastry, warmth and company) during “light” hours in the regular day of the pub or café. Then, there’s UK supermarket chain Asda with a cute “Fakeaway” offer – meal and snack ideas that are characteristic of the takeaway trade that are good value for money for that “Big Night In”!

                                      

Waitrose Food and Drink Trends 2022/23
Marks & Spencer products for “working from home” couples who want to eat healthily and quickly.
Bord Bia promoting “quick quality” of Irish grass-fed beef.

That’ll do on mega-trends, but just to finish off, let’s take a quick look at what the pricier food retailers think are product areas for accelerated growth in 2023. In the USA, Whole Foods Market identify: yaupon caffeinated tea, the leaves of a sort of holly bush native to the northern states (don’t rush!); products made from the leftovers of other products, such as squished oat and nut remains from plant-based milks; plant-based pasta; date syrup; and “better” (slower-growing, etc.) chicken and eggs. In the UK, Waitrose are backing: “less but better” foods, i.e. smaller portions of premium cuts of meat and fish; “forgotten” meat/fish cuts such as fish heads/beef short ribs transformed into delicious dishes through use of the slow cooker; whole cocoa fruit chocolate; grilled lettuce; the rise of “nextovers” – not leftovers, but conjuring up tasty meals  from whatever ingredients are left in the fridge; and food & drink products with relevant and explicit health benefits – such as, no surprise, Waitrose branded ginger shot drinks and oat drinks.

We trust there’s some food for thought in the above and with Christmas and the New Year beckoning, we wish you a happy festive season and fingers crossed that 2023 turns out rather better than that forecasted by the economic and political pundits.

Sources: Mintel, Innova Market Insights, FMCG Gurus, Forrester Research, ADM, Whole Foods Market, Waitrose and Partners, our own views and research.

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About the authors
Prof David Hughes: Around the world, David speaks to senior agribusiness and food industry managers about global food industry developments that are and will affect their businesses and industry. Energetic, engaging, humorous and insightful, David gains the very highest evaluations at seminars, conferences and Board level discussions in every continent he visits. Miguel Flavián: works for several Spanish organisations and companies to help them to learn from the developments of the British grocery market and improve their business back home.
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