Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The ever-changing consumer

People’s buying habits are often a reflection of their personality, income, age, lifestyle and aspirations. Much like these attributes, buying habits are constantly evolving. ‘New-fashioned’ consumers are both rediscovering and reinventing the shopping habits of previous generations.
  
The iconic small grocer's shop on the corner of the street that catered for all the needs of its loyal customers is largely an image of the past. Loyalty to one store has been waning over time as communities have become more mobile thanks to the digital revolution
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The most recent EBLEX category report identified that shoppers, on average, now visit four different shops a month, as they act economically with their money and time. Making the household budget stretch further is important for most people, and they want to do this in a timely and convenient manner that fits around their lifestyles.

The rise of supermarkets has added a new dimension to consumer choice. Though the multiple retailers still account for a large part of the market, the change in shopping patterns has also allowed independent butchers to grow and develop. A recent report by EBLEX into the future of the independent butchery sector established that modern butchers are able to attract this new type of customer with different needs. Butchers now focus marketing and promotional activity around key points in the calendar linked with food, such as Christmas, Easter and Bank Holiday. They have also capitalised on the digital trend by engaging with customers via social media channels.

In order to compile the report, a survey of 300 independent butchers was conducted to see how the industry has changed over the past 10 years. Those that said the industry had changed for the better pointed to the drive of consumers towards higher quality meat, more willingness to support communities by sourcing local produce, a greater emphasis on provenance and traceability, a demand for more information and knowledge about meat, something that a specialist butcher is well-placed to provide.

The expanding number of grocery channels has also led to increasing numbers of people using online and convenience channels.  During the Christmas period both beef and lamb roasting joints performed well, increasing 2.9% and 7.9% respectively and online channels being the key growth driver. 

Specials and promotional activity have also motivated changes in buying behaviour. At the AHDB Outlook Conference, Richard Nicholls of the Future Foundation highlighted this consumer desire for new experiences which is driving new food innovations and tastes. Lamb sales especially continue to be driven by promotional activity. Non-British cuisine types such as Indian and Mexican are becoming increasingly popular meals for lamb and often encourage younger consumers to the category. 

The rise of cuisine-based dishes at dinner is a perfect example of how, despite the changes in how they are used, beef and lamb continue to be versatile, easy-to-use choices. And while the industry continues to provide consumers with new products that fit with their ever-changing shopping habits, beef and lamb will remain a popular choice.