Healthier options, healthier sales

Purdey's Rejuvenate

The slow but steady drift towards greater consumer demand for healthier options shows no sign of relenting and could even have been accelerated by the pandemic – a trend that retailers may be wise to reflect in their ranges.

When the Scottish Government committed in 2018 to halving childhood obesity by 2030, the direction of travel could only be in one direction for foods designated to be ‘unhealthy’. Fairly robust legislation such as the soft drinks sugar tax shows the seriousness with which the government views this issue and while the implementation of the new HFSS (high fat, salt, sugar) legislation has been postponed in Scotland, it seems clear that the war on products and categories that have traditionally been at the core of convenience retailing will be fought until it is ‘won’.

But it’s not just legislative pressure that is impacting upon ranges in many key categories. Good quality research clearly shows that there is also growing demand for healthier options in-store. So, what does that mean for retailers?

Well, it certainly doesn’t mean turning every convenience store into an old-school greengrocers offering nothing but fresh fruit and veg and pure Scottish water. As always, it’s about balance and about offering shoppers more choice, giving them the option to choose a healthier product a little more often.

The key suppliers in most categories have embraced this trend, particularly in high volume ones like soft drinks. Sugar-free drinks now outsell full sugar options, and that trend is only set to continue. But there’s also a trend towards products that are not simply ‘less bad for you’, but products that actively contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

Phil Sanders, Out of Home Commercial Director at Britvic, comments: “Following the pandemic, consumers have become considerably more health conscious, with 59% of people stating they are now considering their health more when they shop [Accenture, Mar/Apr 2020]. An additional one in five people have begun to take vitamins since the start of the first lockdown, while 47% agree they will eat more foods to support their immune system [IGD, Sep 2020]. This trend looks set to continue, driving demand for ‘natural’ energy that also offers additional functional benefits to meet different needs.”

These health trends, accelerated by the pandemic, have driven the growth of the ‘wellness’ drinks segment, and resulted in an increase in first-time customers. The trend is good news for retailers: the average spend on wellness drinks is now more than twice the average price per litre spent on soft drinks [Nielsen, Feb 2021], so it is unsurprising the segment is booming.

“It will be particularly important in the convenience channel, as lockdown restrictions are lifted and customers increasingly look for on-the-    go drinks that will help them manage their daily energy levels, or for relaxation – depending on the type of wellness drink,” says Sanders.

Britvic’s Purdey’s, the natural energy drinks brand, has broad appeal, says Sanders, making it ideally placed to lead in the wellness drinks segment. The brand’s ambition is to make wellness drinks accessible to more people, by aligning with current consumer trends and providing great taste.

“The brand delivers the important factors customers look for in functional soft drinks – clear benefits, great taste and healthier ingredients,” believes Sanders. “Purdey’s has had a successful past four years, seeing growth of almost 70% [Nielsen, Dec 2020] and adding £3.5m of additional value to the soft drinks category [Kantar, Dec 2020]. As a result, the brand is now worth £10.9m [Nielsen, Jan 2021].

The brand is aiming to continue this growth in 2021, with the introduction of two new flavours for those seeking energy but looking for a more ‘natural’ lift:

  • Refocus is a blend of dark fruits, naturally caffeinated and contains guarana and B-Vitamins – inspired by people wanting to stay sharp
  • Replenish is a lighter refreshing blend of sparkling raspberry juices with rose extract. It is under 50 calories per bottle, enriched with B-Vitamins and magnesium to help to restore natural balance.

The brand is also undergoing a complete redesign with the functional benefits further highlighted to increase stand-out on shelf and help make wellness more accessible for consumers.

Unsurprisingly in the current climate, nearly half of people (47%) are eating more foods to support their immune system [IGD, Sep 2020]. This trend has also been visible in the soft drinks category, with 31% of shoppers now interested in premium soft drinks that contain additional functional attributes [Mintel, April 2020].

The megatrand of veganism and vegetarianism may have gone a little quieter in the last year but plant-based eating is most definitely still a thing and has, arguably, gone mainstream. With many major retailers and wholesalers investing significantly in their vegan product ranges, it’s becoming even easier for people to make the switch or at least cut down on their meat consumption.

According to the Vegan Society, 7.2 million British adults currently follow a meat-free diet – an increase of 40% over the past 12 months. What’s more, it predicts that 13 million Brits will be meat-free by the end of 2021.

The fact that Purdey’s has always been made from naturally sourced ingredients and is Vegan approved, recognised by The Vegetarian Society, helps broaden its appeal.

This trend is also great news for plant-based brands such as Quorn which is currently back on TV. The campaign, which is set to reach over 22m shoppers, will continue throughout September and October, with Quorn Nuggets as the hero SKU. The campaign focuses on ‘taste-imonials’, in-store activation, targeted social media and experiential activity to drive sales and increase brand awareness.

“The UK’s No.1 nugget in the meat-free category and ‘Netmums recommended’ product is a firm favourite in shopping baskets already,” says Gill Riley, Marketing Director at Quorn Foods UK.

“We know great tasting food is key to encouraging people to try meat-free and we believe we have the best-tasting meat free nuggets on the market. One of our missions at Quorn is to inspire future generations to eat healthily and establish sustainable eating habits. One of the best ways we can protect the planet is by reducing the meat in our diets, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.”