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With consumers more concerned about health than ever, retailers need to offer healthier alternatives to mainstream products and get involved with the Free From category.

Health is on the national agenda more than ever as consumers are following a more controlled diet to manage their weight and general health.
This means the market for free-from and healthier products is booming.
Perceptions of snacking have already taken a momentous shift in the last few years, as waves of health and well-being trends have made an impact on attitudes towards food and health in general.
The impact of this is a rise in demand for snacks that deliver on a natural and less-processed positioning and can claim proven health benefits.
This need is what is driving the £18bn snacks category.
What’s more, consumers are increasingly striving to be more mindful snackers and as Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Trends 2018 shows, there has been a growth in prioritising ‘self-care’, with more and more shoppers looking for food and drink products that will address perceived nutritional, physical and emotional needs.
In fact, nearly a third (32%) of all snacking occasions are chosen based on ‘health’ (Kantar), with people looking for natural credentials from the snacks they pick. However, the benefits of having more snack products with natural ingredients, diverse flavours and obvious health benefits cannot be at the expense of taste or enjoyment, which are crucial factors for category sales.
TREK, the snack bar from Natural Balance Foods, is helping retailers to capitalise on shopper demand via its ranges of wholesome ‘lifestyle energy’ products, TREK Protein Flapjacks & TREK Protein Energy Bars.
TREK is introducing a new range of TREK’s Protein Nut Bars; made with crunchy roasted peanuts which provide shoppers with natural plant-based energy that doesn’t compromise on taste.
Aimed at the increasing number of shoppers seeking out convenient, tasty and nutritious snacks to have on-the-go, there are four variants – Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt, Blueberry and Pumpkin Seed, Dark Chocolate and Orange and Coconut and Raspberry – providing a bar to suit every shopper’s taste.
As well as opting for snacks with clear additional benefits such as protein and fibre, shoppers also want ‘clean’ labels that list natural ingredients they recognise. TREK’s new Protein Nut Bars come in transparent packaging to ensure consumers can see exactly what they’re purchasing, and the ingredients used. Further to this, the new look packaging features easily digestible benefits, clearly signposted on the front of the pack to make life easier for shoppers, helping them to make quick purchasing decisions and driving incremental sales.
“Consumers buy snack bars for a variety of occasions, ranging from on-the-go breakfast, as a replacement to chocolate confectionery or as an afternoon energy boost/post-gym nourishment,” says Natural Balance Foods’ Marketing Director Marina Love-Smith. “To make the most of potential sales opportunities, TREK should be merchandised in areas of the store where shoppers will expect to find them, as well as convenient grab and go locations, such as by the till. Retailers should group similar products together – especially in impulse locations – and clearly sign-post them.”
Meat free
Quorn, the UK’s No.1 meat free brand (IRI), is driving shopper demand with a £12 million brand investment in 2019, rolling out its “Healthy Protein. Healthy Planet” messaging and highlighting how its meat free products can help consumers reduce their meat consumption and in so doing, the environmental impact of their diet.
Quorn’s 2019 campaign comes as data that shows that for the first time ever, more than half of all UK consumers are reducing their meat consumption, as they recognise the impact their food has on the planet (YouGov).
“We are seeing an unprecedented move towards meat reduction and with the majority of the UK now meat reducing in some way, we have reached a tipping point,” says Alex Glen, Marketing Director at Quorn Foods.
“Consumers now recognise the need for more sustainable diets that are less impactful on the planet, with 57% aware of the benefits of reduced meat consumption to the environment. This mega trend is only going to get bigger in 2019, which is why we’re focusing on making it as easy and delicious as possible for shoppers to reduce their meat consumption with Quorn.”
Quorn is advising retailers to ensure they are reflecting consumer trends in their ranges as shoppers increasingly expect to find mainstream meat free products in categories across the store.
“We believe families are particularly receptive to the benefits of tasty, healthy choices. We make meat reduction really easy for consumers by providing delicious ways to make meat free versions of their favourite meals and we’ve developed a core range of five frozen products for the convenience channel to enable retailers to tap into this opportunity,” adds Glen.
The range includes everyday favourites like Quorn Crispy Nuggets, awarded “Netmums Recommends” by the mum’s website, Quorn Burgers and Quorn Sausages (also Netmums recommended) which are price-marked at £2.29 and are ideal for healthier meal times. These are complemented by Quorn Cottage Pie and Quorn Lasagne ready meals which are price-marked at £1.79.
“Meat free is one of the fastest-growing categories in frozen, and with Quorn accounting for over 49% of all frozen meat free sales, retailers can use Quorn as a beacon brand as part of their ‘meal for tonight’ offering,” says Glen. “Frozen meat free products are also attracting new consumers into the frozen category, so it’s important that retailers stock products such as nuggets, burgers and sausages as these make the introduction to meat free really simple.”
New Quorn Ultimate Burger (227g) is vegan and comprises two great-tasting, thick cut quarter pounders that are succulent with the juice of “beets”, at an RRP of £2.99.
“We’re now seeing the majority (52%) of the UK meat reduce. With this launch, we believe we can drive penetration of the meat free category, by appealing to meat reducers, vegetarians and vegans alike with an innovative product that truly delivers on key attributes of taste, texture and appearance,” says Alex Glen.
“Quorn Ultimate Burger makes it as easy as possible for consumers to reduce their meat consumption across key meal occasions, especially over the Summer BBQ period, and forms part of our key innovation platform, including recently-launched Fishless Fillets.”
Quorn Ultimate Burger is a source of protein and fibre, and unlike other plant-based burgers, it contains no soy.
The Ultimate Burger will benefit from Quorn’s £12 million brand support package this year, with dedicated marketing support including digital, video, PR and Social activity across the summer.
Sugar free
Burton’s Biscuit Company is continuing to drive the agenda on sugar and calorie reduction in the sweet biscuit category.
“We’re striving to achieve a 20% sugar and calorie reduction across our portfolio, with a robust programme in place,” says Isabel Lydall, Category & Insights Controller, Burton’s Biscuit Company. “Since 2016, through recipe optimisation we’ve achieved a 20%+ sugar reduction on Jammie Dodgers and in 2018 delivered a 5%+ reduction on core Maryland and 10%+ on Maryland Minis as part of a wide-ranging portion control initiative.”
While health is a key consideration influencing consumer choice, everyday treat and special treat biscuits continue to be in growth (Nielsen & Kantar), with 10% of convenience store shoppers on a treat mission (HIM).
Biscuit category shoppers’ basket spend has increased 16% in 12 months (HIM), which in part can be attributed to the recent wealth of NPD, offering a diverse range of products to meet shopper needs for heathier and cereal based biscuits, as well as treat options. The sector is really on trend at the moment, meeting demand for products that consumers regard as both permissible and convenient.
Convenience stores which offer a varied biscuit range, catering for different shopper needs, generate a higher basket spend, with the average basket spend of a biscuit category shopper more than double the average food to go shopper (£13.29 vs £6.50 according to HIM), highlighting the value this category has to offer retailers.
Following its successful sugar reduction programme on core Maryland and the introduction of less than 100 calorie packs across its Minis range in 2018, the nation’s no. 1 cookie brand (Nielsen & Kantar) is now even more accessible to consumers looking to reduce their sugar intake, with the launch of Maryland Sugar Free Cookies.
The new, sugar free offering has an RRP of £1.39 for a 230g pack.
“Currently, far too many sugar free options across many categories are regarded by consumers as boring and bland. With Maryland Sugar Free Cookies, we’re giving consumers the best of both worlds – a great-tasting biscuit from one of Britain’s best loved biscuit brands, and a product that’s ideal for the growing number of shoppers looking for lower/no sugar alternatives,”
Burton’s are targeting Maryland Sugar Free Cookies as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon treat.