Belgian Retailers Take the Reins
15th February 2021
Isobel O’Neill, Bord Bia Paris, Global Graduate, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board
Recent initiatives in Belgium’s competitive retail landscape have proven that Belgian retailers are no longer just reactive to consumer trends. Instead, they are now proactively promoting products which embody these trends.
Despite a temporary lapse in 2020 caused by Covid-19, Belgians are particularly worried about the issue of plastic used in packaging. A study by Dedicated Research found that 78% are in favour of a hypothetical “plasti-score”. With four out of ten Belgians stating that most products are over-packaged, many have already adapted their purchasing behaviour (Test-Achats, 2018).
Belgian consumers also strongly believe that private companies hold the greatest responsibility in terms of “sustainable consumption and production” (Procter & Gamble 2020).
Aldi, conscious of this shift in consumer mind-set, has undertaken an initiative to support consumers in search of sustainable alternatives. During 2020, the group launched a logo to highlight more “sustainable products” in store. Products which qualify for this logo include those with reduced single-use plastic, products with a healthier ingredient list (Nutri-Score discussed below), products for which Aldi has a sustainable purchasing policy and others.
A second trend among Belgian consumers which is also outlined in Bord Bia’s Consumer Lifestyle Trends is the increased importance of eating well, demonstrated by the success of the Nutri-Score following its launch in Belgium in 2019. The Nutri-Score system, which was discussed in a Food Alert regarding the French market, is a five letter ranking system which aims to help consumers make healthier food choices. Two years post launch, five of Belgium’s biggest retailers (Delhaize, Colruyt, Carrefour, Lidl, and Aldi) have committed to display a product’s Nutri-Score on its packaging from 2020 onward.
Building on this, last year Delhaize launched a loyalty card and app offering promotions from 5% to 15% on 5,000 products with a Nutri-Score of A or B. The uptake of the card has “exceeded expectations” with 1.4 million customers having registered to profit from these healthier alternatives in its first three months (Gondola 2021).
With retailers promoting products which echo consumers’ values, Irish companies can no longer be complacent. While an awareness of trends is expected, fully understanding consumer motivations and their implications on purchasing is what presents the biggest opportunity.
It would be advantageous for Irish companies to include these insights in the R&D stage of NPD, creating a significant advantage when looking to export.
Similarly, understanding these retailer initiatives will allow clients to tailor their offer, highlighting how their range compliments the retailers’ strategy. This will become even more important for Irish clients as other global retailer’s adopt similar practices.
Finally, once listed in store, these initiatives will actively promote Irish companies advocating for these trends, creating a unique competitive advantage.