How are changing shopping habits in the UK affecting the produce aisle?
6th May 2016
We’ve all heard a lot about how the uk population is moving away from a big weekly shop and is no longer loyal to one supermarket. How is this affecting our fresh produce offer?
The financial crisis of 2008 had many consequences for daily life in Britain but one consequence it had that seems to have stayed with us is that it changed the way people shopped in supermarkets. All sections of society started looking to reduce costs and the proportion of the middle classes shopping in the discounter chains Aldi and Lidl soared.
The big once a week shop, once a cornerstone of UK life, is dying. People are buying in smaller volumes more frequently and are also segmenting their shopping. IGD notes that the average shopper now visits 4 stores a month and that 50% of shoppers will visit 2 stores or more in one trip. This segmentation is driven by two things – cost or location (i.e. convenience).
Add in new formats such as recipe boxes, fruit and veg boxes and new online initiatives such as Amazon Fresh and it becomes obvious that times really are changing. It would be wrong to overstate the change too much though. IGD forecasts that in 2019 supermarkets will still hold 35% of the market, which is over three times the 10.5% it forecasts for the discounters. The 24% forecast for convenience is also still within the estates of most of the big four (to varying degrees of success!).
The change is generally presented as a social phenomenon that supermarkets have no control over, but is it? Graham Ruddick in his article in The Telegraph in 2014 lays out a compelling case for supermarkets having been a big part of their own downfall. He believes opening too many stores at a rate ahead of sales growth meant that prices in the big chains rose. As they are now trying to sell many sites in the UK it would appear they agree that expansion was too rapid. They also encouraged people to buy and trust own label products which made Lidl and Aldi’s job of convincing UK shoppers that their own brands were as good as the big names a lot easier. Their own convenience store and online shopping expansion has obviously also moved many thousands of people away from a big weekly shop in a superstore. It’s an interesting viewpoint and certainly helps explain the sudden rise in the popularity of the German discounters.
The rise of the discounters has continued strongly through 2015 and the structural changes in the way the UK population shops shows no signs of slowing down. Fresh produce is a central part of a supermarket shop and is a big measure for the supermarkets of how they are performing. Both Lidl and Aldi hugely overtrade on fresh produce which is nearly all own label products in all big UK supermarkets so for produce theory Ruddick’s theory rings very true. Lidl have 3.3% of the total grocery market but they nearly double that for the produce market holding a huge 6.2% of our fruit and vegetable purchases. Aldi overtrade in the produce market by nearly 4% holding 4.5% of total grocery and 8.4% of produce. Out of the big four Tesco have an almost equal share in both grocery and produce and Sainsburys overtrade by nearly 2%. Asda are the big produce losers and undertrade by 2.1%.
At the recent IGD conference Asda revealed that only 50% of their customers buy produce from them. Their focus for recovering lost market share in both the total grocery market and the produce market is to focus on low prices, push for better own brand products and to reduce their range. Seems a good plan as this is essentially the format Lidl and Aldi are using!
I think that in terms of what the changing shopping habits mean for produce most of the changes are good. A focus on freshness and good shelf-life for the end consumer is a good aim for us all in this industry and the presence of our products in the recipe box industry helps to improve consumption of a greater variety of fruit and veg whilst effectively managing cost and food waste. Anything that puts the emphasis back on the product in terms of neutral branding and slightly less choice means that the product gets its time to shine.
As always we’d love to hear any stories about produce and changing shopping habits that anyone would care to share…