The rise of social media and other key trends from Waitrose’s Food and Drink Report 2014

Last week Waitrose launched its Food and Drink Report 2014. This is the second time the supermarket has released an annual review of consumer behaviour in relation to food and drink. Waitrose has poured over sales data, customer research and conducted expert interviews to examine consumer’s changing shopping behaviour in food and drink over the past year.

Seven food trends emerged from this report:

    1. As consumers’ lives become busier, convenience shopping has become increasingly important. Time-poor consumers favour shopping little and often, regularly visiting convenience shops. The impact of this has been seen particularly in Waitrose’s breakfast sales, which have increased 10% on last year.
    2. Consumers are becoming more adventurous.World food is becoming increasingly popular, with consumers expressing an interest in particular regional specialities, rather than just countries. Exotic fruit has also become more popular  – Waitrose has seen an 81% rise in online sales.
    3. Not only are consumers more adventurous but the weekends are becoming more of a food event as it becomes more common to gather friends and family to experiment with cooking. Almost half of respondents said they’d become more adventurous with what they cook on the weekend over the past few years, whilst a third of respondents under 34 stated that they now cook more at home for their friends on weekends than they did a year ago.
    4. Consumers are also moving away from high protein diets, instead favouring higher proportions of vegetables. Waitrose has seen sales of its range of vegetarian food soar by 140% (compared to 2013) whilst sales of stuffed mushrooms have increased by 22%.
    5. Consumers are becoming more health conscious.Not only has Waitrose observed a 22% rise in sales of free from dairy and wheat products,but lower alcohol wines and sugar-free alternatives have also become more popular.
    6. Consumers are favouring more basic food over complicated recipes. In line with this, sales of simple cuts of organic meat have risen by almost 10%.
    7. The rise of social media. Millions of consumers are using social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share food photos, blogs and recipes.

This rise in social media in the food category has impacts across consumer behaviour. With ever more consumers sharing the photos of food and drink on social networking sites, social media is playing an increasingly important role in the how consumers choose food. And it’s also increasing consumers’ awareness of what’s actually contained in food and drink products. Waitrose also highlighted the role of that social media can play in the product development process, by drawing on an example of a Facebook and Twitter campaign the supermarket ran to choose the flavour of a new deli cheese. Digital technology is having a fundamental impact on consumers’ behaviour in relation to food and drink and brands that harness these trends will be able to develop an edge over competitors.