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Cost cutting efforts boost UK demand for simpler meals, finds survey

19/04/2023 – Retail / Bakkavor / Survey / UK / Consumers / Inflation / Trends

Cost cutting efforts boost UK demand for simpler meals, finds survey

Bakkavor’s quarterly report reveals 10 food trends to watch, as the cost-of-living crisis persists for UK consumers.

As consumers continue to endure the cost-of-living crisis, with food inflation rising to 18.2 per cent in the UK according to the ONS, new findings from Bakkavor’s quarterly 'State of the Nation Report’ show that Brits are spending more time planning their shop, are staying in rather than going out, and are on the lookout for new ideas on energy efficient cooking tools and techniques.

The research from Bakkavor – the leading provider of fresh prepared food in the UK – highlighted 10 top trends to watch, in terms of food consumption habits and behaviours.

1. Price remains dominant issue for shoppers

As prices accelerated, so too did the consumer focus on price, with shoppers questioning the value of their purchases and looking for cheaper options to help cope with rising inflation. There was a steady increase in the proportion of survey respondents who said they would be choosing cheaper products to help manage grocery spend (61 per cent, up from 51 per cent in January 2022), or buying fewer treats (58 per cent, up from 48 per cent). Additionally, 46 per cent said they would be going to cheaper stores (up from 39 per cent).

2. Reduced items in shopping basket as a result of tightly planned shopping list

By planning more, shoppers were able to decide where they can cut back and what they can do without, in order to prevent grocery budgets from escalating. This ultimately led to less items purchased when they did shop, with volumes falling for items not considered essential. In the last three months, shoppers said they spent more time planning how their shopping budget was spent (37 per cent) and the meals they eat (26 per cent). 

3. Using more energy efficient cooking tools and techniques

With the threat of high energy bills, especially during the winter, many consumers have moved away from the oven or using multiple cooking methods for one meal. The results showed a significant number of people planning to increase their use of air fryers (30 per cent), microwaves (22 per cent), and slow cookers (13 per cent) in the coming months. Food that does not need cooking became more popular as well.

4. Noticing empty shelves for particular items

The effects of poor weather combined with high energy prices was seen on supermarket shelves, with 59 per cent of shoppers saying that they noticed a shortage of fresh fruit and veg in the last three months.

5. Simpler meals with fewer, more filling ingredients

With fewer products purchased and less appliances used to cook, meals have become simpler, according to the research. Less on the plate means more filling ingredients – such as bread, potatoes, rice and pasta – are used to compensate. Pizza is more popular than ever – February 2023 saw a 13-week record period for the chilled pizza and bread sector. 

6. More frequent visits to shops

The new survey suggests that big weekly shop is going to be being replaced with more frequent visits to supermarkets. However, UK consumers are visiting stores for more specific reasons and focusing on buying particular items when they are there. While 35 per cent of respondents said they anticipated doing more big weekly shops in the coming months, one-third (32 per cent) anticipated more top-up shops, or shops for one or two specific items (31 per cent).

7. Eating out less

With consumers’ budgets under pressure, many said they were cutting back on eating out. The research found around two-thirds (67 per cent) said they expected to eat out less this year than they normally would.

8. Scratch cooking remains popular

With people cutting back on eating out, the new research from Bakkavor found that 65 per cent of consumers are ‘scratch cooking’ – i.e., cooking from scratch – in a bid to help with cost saving.

9. Budget-conscious health

There was some resurgence for healthy eating, with signs that health will become more important once food inflation subsides. 46 per cent of survey respondents said they were trying to eat more fruit and veg (however, this was down from January 2022, when it was 52 per cent of respondents). Demand for healthier lunches grew from 30 per cent in January 2022, to 44 per cent in April 2023. 

10. Uplift in sustainability concerns

Almost one in five (18 per cent) said they were looking for food that was sustainable, broadly similar to a year ago (21 per cent). A fifth of people said they were actively reducing their food wastage, while the proportion that said less packaging was important to them increased to 40 per cent (up four percentage points in the last nine months). 

Quality fresh food that meets consumers’ budgets

“With this month being nicknamed ‘awful April’ for the second consecutive year, consumers have become used to cutbacks and stringent planning to cope with the cost of living crisis,” observed Claire Smith at Bakkavor. “The ways people are adapting now are likely to continue for the foreseeable, and will have a bearing on the industry. With many eating out less, people’s homes will feature more prominently for gatherings and entertainment, particularly during the upcoming bank holidays next month. Meanwhile, eating in is being streamlined to simpler meals, with more filling ingredients to compensate,” she predicted. “With the worst of Covid-19 over, and confidence to step out back to normal, we are also seeing supermarket visits becoming more frequent.

“At Bakkavor, by staying on the pulse of the latest trends with our quarterly ‘State of the Nation’ research, we understand the challenges that consumers are facing, and seek to provide people with great quality fresh food that meets their budget,” Ms. Smith added. 

The leading provider of fresh prepared food in the UK, and with a presence in the US and China, Bakkavor’s 19,000 personnel operate from 46 sites across the three markets supplying a portfolio of over 3,200 products – from meals, to pizza and bread, salads and desserts – to leading grocery retailers and international food brands.

Latest issue – Vol 1/23
– Health & Nutrition focus
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