How do we make the “new normal” a “better normal” for vegetables?

Dan Parker

Dan Parker is Chief Executive Officer of Veg Power. He has worked in marketing and advertising for 25 years mostly focused on consumer goods and grocery.

Veg Power is funded by our unique industry-wide members programme with representation from 24 organisations from across the horticulture sector including suppliers, grocers and growers. In return, members have access to a range of benefits including industry briefings, brand-licensing opportunities and exclusive insight reports. Our first edition ‘Opportunity Knocks - How do we make the “new normal” a “better normal” for vegetables?’ was published recently.

 

We’re really proud of the report. We believe it is the first really in-depth independent review of consumer trends in the vegetable sector supported by retail data analysts, shopping strategies and other experienced industry professionals from this field. It is packed full of insight, research and ideas to support the veg industry capitalise on trends emerging during the COVID pandemic. While we can’t distribute the full report to each and every one of you, we thought as Veg Power supporters you’d be interested in a shorter summary. We hope you enjoy it and feel free to get in touch with any questions or comments. 

 

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Our approach was to delve deeply into what really happened in and to our sector during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on these findings we predicted what we believe is likely to happen next and how the sector can adapt to capitalise on this.

The first question to answer was how had the pandemic impacted vegetable sales? Our friends at IRI kindly analysed retail sales data to the end of March 2021 (the First Year of COVID-19) and found that vegetable sales increased by 10.1% compared to the previous year. This was 30% more than overall food sales. 

We wanted to further understand this finding. What caused that shift? What are its lasting implications? And how might we encourage that improved diet of vegetables to continue and grow? Through a comprehensive research phase and access to data from Nectar, Kantar, Google Trends and social media we identified four significant shifts:

SHIFT 1: Eating @ Home

Overnight 43% of the working population, some 14m people, were forced to work from home. Many used the extra time to scratch cook, to eat together more and generally improve the quality of their diet. Many liked it. We predict that 10% of the UK working population will permanently change their working habits. Kantar Worldwide has estimated that over the Second Year of COVID-19, to March 2022, 650 million meal occasions will be changed by this trend. All of these meal occasions are opportunities for veg.

SHIFT 2: Shopping Online

As we dutifully stayed home, online commerce experienced years of growth in a matter of days, as grocery sales boomed from 8% market share in January 2020 to a peak of 16% a year later. 50% of that growth is expected to stay. Online stores are shopped profoundly differently than physical stores. The veg sector needs to understand, learn and adapt to master this opportunity.

SHIFT 3: Shopping Local

Staying at home allowed many to reconnect with their local high streets as suburban convenience stores and independent retail boomed. 69% of us claimed to have shopped groceries closer to home and 51% expect to continue. Range, shopper missions and promotional opportunities are significantly different in these small format local stores.

SHIFT 4: Conscious Consumers

If any event was going to make us think more deeply about wellbeing in the broadest sense – our own and the nation’s health, our financial security, the condition of the planet as a whole – this was it. Veganuary 2021 enjoyed record numbers. 29% of people claim to have improved their diet, whilst 86% claim that protecting the environment is important to them. Conscious consumerism is on the march and may be the defining spirit of the Millennials and Gen Z. 50% of UK adults now consider themselves ‘conscious eaters’ – this has to be an open door for vegetables.

Our report was titled “Opportunity knocks...” because it certainly does for vegetables. However, just because vegetables offer so much to the problems of climate change and dietary health, we’d be wrong to assume that opportunity is ours by right. We need to learn from these changes, understand what is driving choice and adapt our products, promotions and messaging to put vegetables to the top of every shopper’s list.


Veg Power is funded by Abbey View Produce, Abel & Cole, Barfoots, Birdseye, Coop Foods, EVG Europe, Fresca, Greenyard, Gs, Home Farm Nacton, Minor, Weir & Willis, Monaghan Mushrooms, Ocado, Produce World, Riverford Organic, Riviera Produce, Sainsbury’s, Staples, Tesco, Total Produce, Tozer Seeds, Waitrose, Wealmoor and Westfalia Fruit.

About the author

Dan Parker

Dan Parker is Chief Executive Officer of Veg Power. He has worked in marketing and advertising for 25 years mostly focused on consumer goods and grocery.

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