Putting a high value on own-brand
Irish consumers have less money to spend on food and less time to shop but they still want to get quality – even when buying own-label products
LAST THURSDAY more than 100 Irish food producers and suppliers gathered in the Aviva stadium in Dublin to stare into a crystal ball. What everyone in the room overlooking the sodden grounds wanted to know was what consumers here and abroad want from them and what those consumers will want five, 10 and 20 years from now.
The conference was organised by accountancy firm Grant Thornton and before the doors opened it did what such firms do best: it looked at statistics and crunched some numbers. “Understanding how core purchasing decisions are shaped by relative prices, incomes, ages, preferences and technology will be the ‘new normal’ in which clever data capture and analysis will be as important as the manufacturing process of the product itself,” said Ciara Jackson, the author of a report given to delegates, opening the event.
Jackson pointed to trends that she believes will help producers to keep their heads above water in increasingly choppy seas.
So, what do we want? We want a more varied diet and we want it for less. She said the key things the 21st century consumer is looking for is “value, convenience, health and wellness, and provenance”.
The seminar focused first on the global marketplace and as jolly music played, some very unjolly facts were outlined in a slickly produced video. About 30 per cent of the food produced around the world. The amount of food lost or wasted each year equates to more than half the world’s annual cereals crop. It is hardly surprising that people in the developed world are the most wasteful. In fact, those in the first world waste nearly as much food each year (222 million tonnes) as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
Much of the food that we are not wasting we are using wrongly. About half of the world’s corn and 90 per cent of the soybean crop is used to feed livestock. Millions of acres of arable land is being used to grow animal feed, which means there is less land available to grow the wide variety of staple crops, vegetables and fruits necessary to give humans a balanced diet.
After that damning assessment of our profligacy, Jackson identified four distinct generations of Irish shopper and gave them fittingly foodie names: Kerrygold, Smash, Marathon bar and Red Bull.
The Kerrygold generation are born in the 1950s and 1960s. They spend a higher percentage of their income on food and are more likely to buy private label brands than branded goods. They display this frugality despite the fact that they are wealthier, live longer and have more time to spend money than any other generation characterised in the report.
The Smash generation are those born in the 1970s and 1980s. Unsurprisingly, much of this cohert are in negative equity and spend more on housing-related costs than on food and drink. Because of their property woes, they have less discretionary expenditure and are increasingly frugal. They are also increasingly buying own-label products. They are cash- and time-poor, so value and convenience matter more than anything else when it comes to shopping.
The Marathon generation were born in the 1980s and 1990s. They are unemployed, in university or have emigrated. If they still live in Ireland, there is a very good chance they live at home with their parents. They are cutting back on going out or to restaurants and having nights in or takeaways instead. They are a tech savvy, instant-access generation, likely to be influenced by social media and to buy online. While their income levels are low they are not heavily indebted and are less likely to part with cash as impulsively as in the past.