Just as at the beginning of summer, the period straight after the holidays season is a time when people are motivated to change their habits towards a healthier lifestyle. As a reflection of this, new year’s resolutions begin with an increased number of people looking for diets, nutrition tips and healthy foods. Old news. So what is different about 2019 and what might this tell us about a key retail trend that could be helpful for investment?
Alongside concerns for sustainable produce, environment and animal welfare, the pursuit for a healthier diet has also lead to an increasing number of consumers looking for meat-alternatives. “Veganuary” – an initiative to motivate consumers to turn vegan during January – has seen a record number of people joining this year, and there’s an expectation that a higher number of consumers might keep the plant-based diet throughout 2019.
We focus on this trend as an example of how it can impact investment decisions. According to a Waitrose report, one in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan. But in past years, even non-vegetarians have reduced their meat consumption. As a result, sales of meat-free products in the UK have increased 22% since 2013.
In response to this and the increasing number of flexitarians and pescatarians, supermarkets have also been investing in shelf space for meat-free offers over the past year. Quorn, one of the most popular meat-alternative brands, has seen a steady increase in sales, which correlates closely with public interest and growing positive sentiment towards the brand as reflected in our research below. Notably, these peak in summer and New Year.
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Brexit is unarguably slowing down investments in the consumer-leisure space, and it would seem that firms are already investing in new start-ups within this space following the success of Quorn. Supermarkets are capitalising on the trend by releasing its own products: Marks & Spencer started the year launching a range of 60 meat-free meals, and Waitrose made the headlines with its new “fishless fingers”.
Unsurprisingly, the casual dining sector is also adapting. Greggs has recently launched a new vegan sausage roll, McDonald’s has just announced a vegan-friendly Happy Meal and TGI Fridays’ vegan burger is finally arriving in the UK, after a very successful launch in the US.
Big names in the food industry are quickly reacting. Last month Unilever announced the acquisition of Dutch brand The Vegetarian Butcher, while Nestlé is launching its own meat-free burger to tackle the competition. 2019 is set to see big deals in this segment, signalling the move towards meat-free diet is here to stay. And this is good news.
Portfolio investors take note: with a vast quantity of consumer data available online, digital diligence can help you to evaluate the current market position of your asset and stay ahead of the curve in a challenging environment.
Finally, like all New Year resolutions, sticking to them is hard, but consumer investors looking outside of their own comfort zones would do well to track these consumer data trends for positive returns. Consumer deals needn’t stall after all.
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