North-South divide defining produce purchasing trends
Consumers in the South of England have shifted to the little-and-often shopping model

North-South divide defining produce purchasing trends

Tomm Leighton
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In his latest monthly exclusive offering for readers of Produce Business UK, Kantar Worldpanel’s consumer insight director Chris Cowan argues that while there is little to differentiate the UK consumer’s shopping habits now with what they did five years ago, there is a definite north south divide

If you regularly read the pages of the trade and consumer press, including this very site, you could be forgiven for thinking that the 2014 produce shopper was from Mars while his/her counterpart in 2009 was from Venus.

The rise of the discounters, the emergence of multichannel retail, the resurgence (however gradual) of the independent retailer and the foodservice boom would all suggest, if you believe everything you read, that the consumer purchasing picture has altered dramatically in those five short years.  

Not so, says Chris Cowan, who explains: “We’re not drastically changing our shopping behaviours at a grocery level. While how we shop, and the channels we choose has developed, on average, little is different now versus five years ago.”

As this slide show illustrates, Kantar’s data makes it pretty clear that nothing much has changed. Incredibly, when you consider everything, the average UK consumer made exactly the same number of shopping trips last year as they did in 2009 and their main shop and top-up shop frequency are unchanged too.

So, as Cowan has noted before on this site, reports of ‘the death of the weekly shop’ are greatly exaggerated and the countless column inches discussing the revolution of shopping habits are also pumping the situation up to be a little more dramatic than figures suggest.

“There is some truth in the little and often reports,” he says, “but there has not been a drastic shift. Smaller shopping trips [less volume] are getting bigger and bigger shopping trips [higher volume] are getting smaller, but there is no revolution.

“It’s a similar picture in produce…until you scratch the surface,” he continues. What appears then is some proof that perhaps it is the respective consumers of the South of England and the rest of Britain who slot neatly into the Mars and Venus analogy

The big differential in produce, he adds, is regional. As slide 6 in the presentation shows, Londoners and people who live in the South and South West of England make significantly more frequent shopping trips for produce than their counterparts in every other part of mainland Great Britain.

“There are huge variations between how the different regions interact with the produce fixture,” Cowan says. “Slide 5 onwards looks at some of these differences – particularly around frequency, the different produce sectors that each buys and their interaction with the different channels.

“Ultimately, it’s about understanding these regional differences and trends if we, as a produce industry, are going to help grow categories and talk to shoppers about more than just price.”

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