How do your customers shop during the summer? | Opinion

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Conor Lowry - Category Controller - Pilgrim's Food Masters

People haven’t stopped eating at home now that lockdown restrictions are over. In fact, home meal consumption is up 7% from pre-pandemic levels [Kantar], providing even more opportunities for convenience stores, taking advantage of new consumer trends – including growth in the meatless category, an increased appetite for chilled snacks and a continued wait for barbecue staples – to maximize sales. With a much smaller square footage than grocery stores, it’s essential that independents stock the right range for the season. But how are consumer trends affecting what’s selling this summer, now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted?

Meatless for the summer

Meat alternatives are no longer considered new or novel and over the past three years the meatless category has grown steadily. We predict the herbal category to reach £998m by 2026 – an incredible 74% increase over the next four years[Pilgrims Pride] – as more and more consumers seek to moderate their meat consumption.[Kantar] In particular, the appetite for meatless products in the convenience channel has consistently exceeded the market rate, both specifically in summer and throughout the year.[Kantar] – a trend that independent retailers cannot ignore.

Vegan is no longer the only time consumers fill their shopping carts with meatless products. Sales of meatless components see an increase in late spring and early summer as customers incorporate meatless options into their home-cooked meals. During these months, sales of Richmond Meatless Ground and Meatless Meatballs increase as customers shop for their summer meals.

Summer snack

Over the past year, the refrigerated snacks category has grown faster in the convenience channel compared to mainline stores and high street stores.[Kantar], as customers crave a quick meatless bite on the way home. Meatless snacks also tend to be on the rise from the start of summer – June, July, August and September being key months for purchase – as shoppers choose meatless options for their picnics. and garden parties. Independent stores need to be prepared for the growing demand for meatless snacks in August. In August 2021, sales of meatless snacks increased by 76% compared to 2019 and show no signs of slowing down. Not only is this due to a shift in customers seeking alternatives to meat, but also the growing number of meat-free products now available. The success of new product launches, such as Fridge Raiders Meat-Free Tasty Bites, shows that customers want to diversify into meat-free snacking ranges.

Burgers are king

While engaging customers with new products will be vital this summer, it’s important that independent retailers don’t ignore summer classics. As barbecues come out in the summer, shoppers are constantly increasing their spending on burgers over sausages which remain popular year-round. This is something retailers need to keep in mind, especially in the meatless category. With sales of Richmond’s meatless range up 18.6% in volume over last year, plant-based alternatives are fast becoming essential summer stock for convenience stores.

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