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  • Author: Kerri Murphy, UK Market, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board


    Bord Bia GB and Him MCA hosted a webinar on the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on UK shopper and consumer behaviour. The Him MCA UK recovery report examines the state of play for the UK food industry and looks at the business implications of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the key learnings to help food and drinks businesses navigate this new landscape and the new consumer attitudes that come with it.

    The change in how we live and work and the ‘new norms’ we are becoming secondary to have an impact on how consumers shop and behave. This FoodAlert, the second in a three-part series, is built on insight from MCA’s UK Recovery Report and focuses on the key consumer insights resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.


    The online revolution

    Online has become even more important for both retail and foodservice in lockdown. The MCA channel shift shows that while supermarkets and discounters lost some share of penetration, online retailers and foodservice saw gains in the lockdown period. Initially falling as the lockdown began, the convenience channel also crept back up in channel penetration, as people opted to shop in more local and ‘safer’ shops.



    This shift is likely caused by consumers who are ‘shielding’ or cocooning and the general nervousness about going out as people reduced trips to public places in line with government guidance. When asked about returning to physical sites there are clear worries from consumers about returning to such establishments and they are predicting a drop in their frequency.

    This is the case for both foodservice and retail, but is likely to impact foodservice more. We are already seeing this in the market as the Coffer Peach Business tracker showed like-for-like sales in managed pubs and restaurants were down 45% over reopening weekend. So we can expect that post-lockdown, online penetration increases will be upheld at least to some extent.

    Looking at the retail channel there was a shift back to the ‘big shop’ in supermarkets or online, and consumers also began using convenience channels to ‘top-up’ or to get items which were out of stock in larger stores. During the last recession, impulsivity was at its lowest rate in the last 10 years, driven by consumers having less disposable income to spend, and hence being more careful about unintended purchases. The upcoming expected recession impulsivity.

    However, the growth of online only further increases this risk as impulse items are often bought at the till or in the queue or when consumers see promotions in store. This means there is more onus on suppliers is to consider their digital promotional strategy, so as not to lose out on these impulse purchases.


    The shift to home and scratch cooking

    We have seen a rise in home consumption and cooking, with 37% of consumers surveyed by MCA expecting to do so more often post-lockdown. This means consumers will be looking for more recipe inspiration when shopping and products need to be fit to fulfil this want. Suppliers must consider how they engage with retailers to engage with consumers looking for recipe inspiration, either in-store or online.

    A relatively new channel, meal kits and recipe box delivery is seeing a small boost to popularity in line with the shift to home cooking. Recipe boxes offer an opportunity for brands, retailers and operators to inspire consumers, and for foodservice operators to stay relevant with the new home cooker who cannot visit their physical site. With 9% of consumers surveyed by MCA using recipe meal kits, such as Hello Fresh or meat boxes from catering butchers such as Aubrey Allen or HG Walter who source Irish beef, this is a channel to be considered as another outlet to increase product penetration and awareness.

    Lasting legacies

    Healthy eating, a trend which is highlighted in Bord Bia’s Consumer Lifestyle Trends study, is set to continue its upward trajectory. With 21% of consumers eating healthier in lockdown and 17% planning to continue on in this way, suppliers need to consider how they communicate health credentials now more than ever. Additionally, health credentials will become more important when charging a premium for products.

    Another trend which is emerging is buying local with 17% of consumers also expecting to do this more after lockdown. Bord Bia’s Brexit Consumer Pulse research indicates that suppliers from Ireland are still well placed to serve the market, with 82% of UK shoppers open to choosing food and drink from Ireland, and with UK shoppers considering food and drink from the Republic of Ireland to be more local versus other EU countries, or the EU itself.



    Premiumisation was a trend on the up in the UK at the start of 2020, however it is expected that this will change, influenced by the looming recession. Nonetheless, there will still be a nice opportunity for premiumisation when linked to consumer trends such as health credentials or provenance. So while it is not expected that there will be no opportunities in premiumisation, it is expected that how consumers view premium will shift.


    Implications for Irish suppliers


    • The shift to online means that physical outlets will need to work harder for footfall, communicating safety measures and changing how things are done. This is something suppliers need to remain aware of and consider when developing their channel strategies for the UK market.
    • Impulsivity is at risk due to the shift to online. Suppliers need to work closely with retailers to ensure any products which might usually be purchased on impulse are still visible on site and reach consumers.
    • Scratch cooking is a trend that will continue. Retailers need to inspire consumers who are home cooking, leaving an opportunity for suppliers to get their brand on displays in-store and collaborate with retailers on POS and online promotions, including recipe inspiration.
    • Meal delivery kits have seen a boost during lockdown providing another channel opportunity for suppliers to make use of.
    • Local and provenance will become a key point of difference both on menus and in-store. However, Irish suppliers are well placed ahead of other EU exporters to serve the market with British consumers being open to food and drink from Ireland and seeing Ireland as more local than other EU countries.
    • Premiumisation will become more niche and striking the balance between value and quality will be as important as ever.


    To find out more on this topic, look out for Part 3 in this series, which will be in next week’s Food Alert newsletter. In the meantime, if you would like more information on Bord Bia’s Covid-19 Response, visit the Bord Bia Covid-19 Hub by clicking here.


    Source: MCA Recovery Report, 2020, Bord Bia Consumer Lifestyle Trends