The health factor

Healthy eating: fruit

Growing consumer demand for healthier food options provides opportunities for local retailers to attract new customers and increase spend.

by Duncan Stewart

The coronavirus pandemic has driven many changes in shopper behaviours during the last two years, some of which have proven to be temporary whilst others appear to be here for longer. However, during this period we have also seen an acceleration of several consumer trends which were already emerging before the first lockdown. One of the most notable of these is the growing demand for healthier options amongst Scottish shoppers.

Late last year, 56 Degree Insight undertook a nationally representative survey of the Scottish population (1,000 adults) on behalf of the Scottish Retail Food & Drink Awards, and this has unearthed more insight about this trend and provided some possible opportunities for convenience stores to capitalise on this area of growth.

The survey found that just over half of the population (55%) consider a healthy diet to be extremely or very important, and they try to eat healthy food all or most of the time. Notably consumers in the most affluent AB socio-economic groups were almost twice as likely than those in the least affluent DE groups to hold this opinion.

The growing importance of health during recent years is significant: the survey found that three in five felt that eating healthily had become more important to them, with people aged 18-34 the most likely to say that this was the case.

Importance of healthy food choices graph

Furthermore, when we asked participants which factors influenced their decisions when grocery shopping (including reference to food miles, sustainability, provenance and packaging), ‘avoiding unhealthy options’ was most likely to be rated as important (ranking first equal alongside ‘minimal plastic and recyclable packaging’).

But the importance of ‘health’ in decision-making is also clear when it comes to packaging and labelling: over two-thirds of customers (68%) want to see clear health information on products labels (only ‘clear listing of the product’s ingredients’ ranked higher).

How can Scotland’s convenience stores make the most of this desire for healthy foods? When asked what might drive greater footfall in our local convenience stores, two elements emerged as most important to potential customers – more competitive prices (56%) and better product ranges (42%). For convenience stores thinking about how to meet that growing demand for a better range of products, it is clear that stocking products which are aimed at health-conscious consumers could provide some opportunities to drive up business.

So, the evidence is clear: the availability of healthier options is increasingly important to a growing proportion of Scottish grocery shoppers. And the survey findings demonstrate that there are clear opportunities for both producers and the convenience store sector to make the most of these trends.

Duncan Stewart is Managing Partner of Edinburgh-based research and insight specialists 56 Degree Insight, the official research partners of the Scottish Retail Food & Drink Awards.