Brands should follow Tesco’s lead and focus on growth in demand for single portion meals

Tesco’s decision to significantly expand its range of single-portion foods to meet the needs of the growing number of Britons who live or eat alone may demonstrate the start of an industry shift away from the relentless focus on families.

Category and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne has been arguing for some time that the changing make-up of society is something that brands should be considering as part of their preparation for range reviews and their development of category strategies. It believes that Tesco’s move to increase its single-serve range by nearly 40% this year, including the addition of single beef burgers and steak fillets and hand-sized packets of new potatoes and broccoli, demonstrates recognition of this increasingly important demographic. 

The growing number of single-person households has been one of the biggest societal trends since the war with just over one third of UK households now having only one person living in them. Official figures released last year reported 7.7m single occupancy households compared with 6.6m in 1996. The shift is particularly evident among baby boomers, with a 53% increase in the number of 45 to 64-year-olds living alone because of declining marriage rates and divorce, although, according to Age UK, 3.8 million people above the age of 65 also live alone in the UK, which represents more than a third of the people in this growing age bracket. The number of people living single-person households is projected to increase to 10.9m in 2031, by which point it could outnumber any other housing group.

“Brands and own label suppliers seem to be beginning to recognise that the changing make-up of British society is something they need to factor into their planning,” explains Bridgethorne’s Joint Managing Director, John Nevens.

“Shoppers obviously behave differently according to their circumstances. Somebody living on their own will not necessarily want to buy the same product in the same quantities as others and this will have an impact on the format and diversity of how products are presented, from packaging to portion size. If manufacturers and retailers remain relentlessly focused on the family unit they could be turning their backs on category growth by ignoring the needs of people who don’t fit into the standard family model.”

Suppliers, Nevens adds, need to be able to demonstrate how they can make their category work for all shoppers, including those who live alone. Doing so will help them cement a more positive working relationship with the large retailers. And in the current market dynamic that’s the only place to be.”

In this sense, internal and retailer range reviews to address any immediate shortfalls in range balance and effective category vision development are both critical. Category vision development, underpinned by consumer and shopper research and data driven insights, will help manufacturers understand the long term opportunities and growth initiatives that societal changes will present both retailers and themselves. If manufacturers can identify short and long term quantified strategic opportunities for the category and the brand, this will increase expertise and multi – dimensional levels of influence leading to brand growth ahead of the category.

Bridgethorne works with manufacturers to develop quantified category visions and category plans that will help them increase their sales. This is a flexible, insight-based, three phased approach – with consultative, managed or directed options – with as much input from Bridgethorne personnel, all of whom have hands on industry experience, as is needed to suit the manufacturer’s business objectives and resource needs.

Bridgethorne said it helps suppliers identify and quantify specific revenue opportunities as well as transforming them into tactics and actionable plans.