BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
The cost of living in Ireland “isn’t a trend, it’s a crisis!”according to the all-Ireland research report recently published by The Foundation, a Belfast-based branding, design and digital marketing agency.
The report was commissioned to examine the impact of the rising cost of living on shoppers’ behaviour and how this will impact on local food and drink brands.
The report has revealed that 85% of consumers say the rising cost of living is impacting on how people shop. Of those surveyed 36% of shoppers expect to buy less local produce, while 57% are now purchasing products from clearance sections and 49% are buying bigger packs to save money. This could lead to the view that less available money will cause consumers to skimp on value, quality, and freshness. Not so, according to the results. Consumers continue to have a strong desire for “fresh products”.
Under half (46%) of respondents are still committed to buying the same levels of local food and drink products.
Reading between the lines producers need to be aware that the “open the doors, put in on the shelf and they will come” policy no longer works as it might once have had. Retailers are being encouraged to show strong reasons why the shopper should buy their products.
The report gives an insight into how local food and drink producers are being advised how to interact with their customers; by building their brands in these changing times. If they follow through with the advice we, the consumer, in spite of the crisis, will continue to buy the high levels of food and drink products available.
Despite the price squeeze consumers continue to be committed to “doing their bit” for the environment and are aware of the impact of production and packaging of foods has on the environment. For example, they continue to ask how sustainable is the product they intend to purchase; is the packaging recyclable/compostable and where is it sourced?
In addition to value, price and impact, shoppers “buy with their eyes”. How often have you chosen a piece of fruit, looked at it, put it back and chosen another that was more appealing.
Almost three quarters (72%) of respondents said being able to see the product through the packaging had influenced them when purchasing and 62% said that ease of preparation had either “considerable” or “lots of influence” on theirs purchases.
Consumers would like to see more of fruit and vegetables (56%), fresh meat and poultry (53%) and bakery (50%) in house, while outsourced pre-prepared products are way down the line. But there is still demand for local in-house prepared ready meals and ready to cook foods (29%), Pre-prepared fruit & veg (23%) and pre-prepared meat & poultry (22%).
Pricing is still important but the ability to communicate value is now more than ever an essential part of retailers’ marketing strategy. Up to 68% of shoppers say social media has some influence, whereas 7% say a lot of influence. Consumers value access to on-line recipe ideas, seeing how others cook and serve a product even entertaining content around food is popular.
Brendan Gallen, Strategy Director of The Foundation, explains: “Local producers have built a global reputation for the quality of their food and drink products, but with consumer spend being squeezed due to the eye-watering rise in energy prizes, it’s crucial that local brands communicate value as well as quality.”
There is a huge appetite for more local food and drink products but being the cheapest is not always the way to go. The challenge is value for money but must include convenience, sustainability, and sourcing.