Vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, healthy and plant-based are all lifestyles and food choices on the increase in the UK. The popularity of eating vegan food or plant-based diets has soared in the past few years with the number of people in the UK identifying as vegans having quadrupled from 150,000 in 2014 to 600,000 in 2018. With the rapid growth demonstrated in almost half (42 percent) of UK vegans making the change in 2018, Brits will be looking to every shop to meet the needs of their food choices and that includes convenience stores. So, are you ready to supply for the demand?
Google shows the vegan trend quadrupled in the five years between 2012-2017 and is now getting almost three times more interest than vegetarian and gluten-free searches. Meat-free eating isn’t the only choices showing growth, with one in 10 people in the UK now avoiding gluten with the ‘free-from’ marketing showing a 27 percent rise in sales. Team this with international delivery service Just Eat also seeing a 94 percent increase in healthy food ordered, these changes in choice are not a fad, they are here to stay.
Responding To Demand
The relationship between the consumer and c-store owner is important in providing the consumer what they want. If healthy eating is here to stay, that consumer wants its c-store to be with them every step of the way and if you don’t provide those options, consumers will go somewhere else to find them.
In 2018, the UK launched more vegan products than any other nation and more than a quarter of evening meals in the UK are vegan or vegetarian. It’s clear interest in vegetarian and vegan products shows no sign of slowing down, with Mintel predicting retail sales are expected to increase to £658m by 2021 from £572m in 2017.
The Social Media Effect
It’s been a social shift that identifying as vegetarian, vegan or plant-based was often viewed as weird or extreme, and not a choice made by large numbers of everyday people. But now the media, and in particular social media, has driven the change in these food options being universally available and crucially appetising, leaving the consumer with such vast choices in bigger stores. It’s crucial convenience stores aren’t left behind and many are beginning to show their commitment to more specialist mealtime choices and snacks. It’s important to note that the trend isn’t necessarily about leading a full vegan lifestyle but flexing the diet, choosing meat-free options more than before and c-store owners needing to follow suit as customers demand it.
Making Healthy Available
Data from Kantar World Panel Usage states one in three shoppers now buy a healthy snack at least once a week from a convenience store and two in five (40 percent) of c-store shoppers rate a range of healthy products in store important (8,9 or 10 out of 10) according to HIM’s Convenience Tracking Programme. It’s clear consumers want retailers to provide options to allow them the choice in their purchase.
With 78 percent of shoppers feeling c-stores aren’t credible places to buy health and fresh products (HIM), it’s time for some changes from the retailer’s side. With the promotion and in-store positioning of foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) under close watch, there’s some questions to ask yourself in making healthy choices available to your customers.
The position of the products is key to influencing shopping choices so are you making it easy for shoppers to find healthier/vegan/gluten free products in your store? Are you stocking enough choices for this type of food or is the existing range you have big enough to satisfy demand? Maybe conducting a trial of replacing some unhealthier choices with alternatives and increasing shelf space for healthier snacks will see you capitalise on the growing demand. Back-office solutions, such as HTEC’s Callisto, are designed and developed specifically for offering in-depth reporting to monitor and distinguish trends. Utilise your back-office solution to easily monitor the sales of new food ranges and make adjustments from the data.
Owning The Food To Go Market
The recent UK Food To Go Market Report for 2019 by MCA Insight and HIM found that within the c-store sector, there is an expected growth of a £0.5 billion growth in the Food To Go market over the next three years. HIM’s research and insights director Val Kirillovs said: “The Food To Go market is pivotal to the convenience sector. Lunch and snack occasions are dominated by the grocery retailers, but consumers are placing greater importance on range and in particular healthier options.”
In a previous interview with The Grocer, MCA director of consumer insights Gareth Nash said: “C-stores need to ensure they have a strong on-the-go offering that reflects their location. City centre stores are more frequented by professionals who are time-pressed and looking for a quick snack or meal. Ensure your range is well-stocked and located in clear view of the front of the store.”
It’s long thought that eating fresh food and healthier choices is more expensive, in fact, 53 percent of c-store shoppers think it’s more expensive to eat healthily. Forty percent of shoppers also say they expect to pay a premium for healthy snacks, however according to Thinkmoney, meat eating Brits spend £645 more a year on food compared to those on a meat-free diet so much of the perception could be off the mark.
To Sum Up
As our food habits change, it’s vital that these requirements are reflected in the stock that c-stores are offering. By listening to customer demands, increasing range availability and utilising promotions, there’s a huge opportunity for the convenience market to finally make the shift into becoming associated with healthier options. So, are you ready to supply for the demand?