At the end of a decade of changing attitudes and priorities, food continues at the forefront of new thinking and behaviours. Some are for the better; think awareness of provenance and seasonality, artisan offerings in breads and cake and high-quality vegetable-based foods. Others have been less inspiring – vegetable desserts, bean-based protein drinks, edible insects and chocolate covered chickpeas.
Trend defining restaurants have waxed and waned whilst chain branded casual dining has atrophied. Staying in became a new norm as Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber promised speed, convenience and variety at the touch of an app, including Supermarket Pizza and McDonald’s. Street food and pop-ups embraced by Millennials eager for foods and formats that engage the Instagram generation won out. Veganism, growing Flexitarianism and a whole rainbow of food intolerances further changed the retail landscape.
It has also been the decade when the Discounters really hit home, impacting on the established strategies – and profitability – of the major grocery retailers. What one industry executive called ‘the democratisation of premium’ has shattered established norms and reshaped consumer perceptions of price and value forever. A paradigm shift that is still working out.
How has this impacted on the new food and drink product introductions that we check out through Fast Foodfax? At first glance, not a lot.
In 2009 the most highly rated product was Frosty’s Ice Sensations, an Ice Cream from Aldi; a decade later it was Tesco Rhubarb and Custard Creams, a new twist on a biscuit format more than a century old. Many of the Top 100 of the most highly rated products in 2019 were equally familiar, but indications of real change lurk everywhere.
THE RISE AND RISE OF OWN BRAND:
Own Brand dominated Food & Drink sector innovation – 2/3 of the 2019 Hot 100 Most Highly Rated products were own label - almost double the 34% of a decade ago. The increasingly discerning and price sensitive shopper ensured own brand became a key differentiator between retailers.
Every one of the 2019 Top 10 were from the retail brands. 3 from Aldi; 3 from Iceland; 2 each from Asda and Tesco.
All delivered great taste and great value. 2 of the most innovative were from Asda – Mozzarella & Smoked Tomato Pork Sausages and Edamame Bean and Broccoli Stir Fry.
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
The number of new lines launched has fallen progressively over the decade. We now find around half of the lines we picked up 10 years ago.
Limited innovation from traditional Big Brands; more of the same using existing kit and resources are increasingly the play in a margin squeezed environment where shelf space is under pressure.
Brand stature and heritage are no longer a given for success. Over the past decade challenger brands found their mojo. Innovation came increasingly from Start Ups and Smart Ups – those who think they’ve a new idea that appeals to ‘people like them’. Difficult to separate out potential ‘game changers’ from the enthusiastic failures. Many launches, too many ‘me-too’s’. Few make the Top 100.
THE EVOLVING MAINSTREAM
Setting aside the buzz of social media, a more level, pragmatic, head rules – at least outside London. Consumer tastes are in long term change; most are conscious of their health and weight. The issues of our time - provenance, sustainability, recyclability, food waste - are increasingly top of mind. More consumers are happy to consider vegetable / plant-based foods that offer a lighter option, taste good and that meet their needs – and their value expectations.
Love the North; they’ll give anything a try, or at least are generous in their ratings for new products. Drift South, cynicism sets in and ratings drop.
NICHE IS THE NEW NORM:
New products are increasingly targeted at tightly defined groupings of consumers; everyone, including the older generations, are open to consider new ideas, like vegan, vegetarian, new food formats, etc., but all are discerning on what they will spend their money on.
New digital-only retail formats continue to emerge. For example, specialist retailers selling Vegan Cheeses through to Vegan Only Supermarkets are thriving in an increasingly diverse and fragmented retail marketplace.
A 3-Fold expansion of Foodfax Categories in recent years reflects increasing fragmentation in positioning and differentiation. We now have more than 460.
Have Aldi and Lidl peaked in generating consumer excitement and approval? No longer new, they have changed the game, but the rest are catching up. The ‘Halo’ effect when consumers are asked about a new Aldi product is less bright; some disappointment emerging, the ‘Discounter’ straight line of sustained Purchase Intentions from Sight to Post Trial is still there, but this value equation is now being matched by others, Jack’s for example on their limited range.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM 2019:
The average price of the Top 100 lines tested in 2019 was £2.33. The average for the Top 10 was £1.23. Five years ago, it was £1.63.
There was a high level of innovation at the Premium end of the market – 39 % of products tested.
11% of lines tested were Vegan / Vegetarian. Texture proved a key determinant in consumer approval. The 2 least successful were either too dry – Tesco Beetroot Burgers (Rating 27/50) or too rubbery/chewy – Aldi Meat Free Butchers Quarter Pounders (20/50). Sweet Vegan lines were rarer, but Asda Extra Special Vegan Chocolate Torte edged in at No. 60 despite a £4 price tag.
Savoury Snack Flavour variants became ever more complex as suppliers vied for consumer attention. Hummus Bites (Number 4), Ham with Spiced Cola Glaze (10), Spicy Siracha (11), Pulled Pork & Wild Flower Honey (12), Smoky Chilli Chicken (18), Pigs in Blankets Flavour (37), Seas Salt and Lentil (28), Sour Cream & Serenade Chilli (72), Chicken Katsu Curry (96).
It’s all in a name, a descriptor that intrigues and adds value gains greater cut through at the point of purchase. Easy Peelers, Very Berry, Baked, Naked, Melt, Sizzle, Extra Fruity, Flame Grilled, Roasted, Spiced, Fiery, Caramel Puddle, Melting, High Juice, Sourdough, Compote, Sharing…
Retro worked for Iceland – Mini Chocolate & Mint Vienna – Viennetta on a stick (5) – Black Forest Ice Cream (8) and Hash Brown Fries (9). But we can’t get our heads around the most highly rated product of the year – Tesco Rhubarb & Custard Creams, comfortingly familiar, great value, but a really polarising taste. We Brits often surprise.
Speak with Alison Eddershaw our lead Analyst on 01223 492056