OPINION | The Generation Of Resilience 

James Bailey Executive Director Waitrose

By James Bailey, Executive Director Waitrose

Waitrose, the renowned UK retailer and supermarket, shared its latest consumer trends. The retailer analysed consumers’ behaviour and purchasing decisions, dubbing shoppers as savvy and resilient in the face of rising food prices, climate challenges, and a shifting political stage both domestically and internationally.

“Our research found that people are becoming, even more, budget conscious, seeking out ways to save on their weekly grocery bills,” said a spokesperson for Waitrose.

In the retailer’s survey from 2022 to 2023, 72 percent of respondents reported being more mindful of their grocery budget. More than a third added that they were very concerned about the rising cost of living and how it would impact them over the coming months.

Thirty-two percent said they were looking for sales and unique offerings more than ever. A quarter of respondents said they were creating economic shopping lists and keeping to them, with 27 percent taking to plan meals to save money.

“The events of the last year have created a difficult backdrop for many people, and like all supermarkets, we’ve had to judge the mood and react. We’re seeing some big changes,” said Waitrose executive director James Bailey.

One of these changes has been the increase in purchasing forgotten foods such as fish heads, beef shin, ox cheek and lamb neck. Tinned food sales are also soaring, and tinned Spam sales are up 34 and 36 percent, respectively.

“With shoppers being more mindful of their grocery budgets and shopping around for more offers, we have responded by doubling down on our good food promise. We believe budgeting shouldn’t mean compromise.”

However, in conjunction with rising food prices and budget-conscious behaviour, consumers have also been turning to food as a form of catering to their emotional well-being, sweet foods and treats being a small yet significant way for consumers to have daily luxuries.

According to Waitrose’s research, 46 percent of consumers are buying more sweet treats, with custard tarts, eclairs, and cappuccino mousse being the top three best-selling desserts for the retailer this year.

Included in the small indulgences segment is an increase in the popularity of consumers buying a bottle of wine (36 percent) or house plants and flowers (39 percent).

While consumers are budgeting and taking small indulgences where they can, they are also increasingly asking more questions about where food is sourced and the climate impact of what they eat.

Twenty-two percent of Waitrose’s survey respondents said they now consider the carbon footprint of products, and 35 percent said they are prepared to put things back if there is too much packaging. Many are also concerned about animal welfare (28 percent) and whether or not workers are pretty compensated (22 percent).

Furthermore, the pandemic has made many people prioritise their health and well-being. When respondents were asked what the key to happiness was, ‘being healthy’ topped the list, with 34 percent stating they were now trying to eat ‘more healthily’ most of the time. ‘Spending time with friends and family’ was a close second.

Quality over quantity has come hand-in-hand with health, eco, and budget-conscious consumers, with most respondents to Waitrose’s research sharing that they were buying fewer but better products for budget and health reasons.