Reports that the rise in the number of vegetarians and vegans saw sales of Quorn rise by 16 per cent last year as more shoppers pursued meat-free diets provides further evidence that our changing eating habits have put the shopper in a position of increasing influence in the FMCG market.

That’s the verdict from category management and shopper marketing specialist Bridgethorne following the successful ‘Veganuary’ campaign. According to the Vegan Society there are now 542,000 vegans in the UK – more than three times as many as a decade ago – and nearly half of those are aged between 15 and 34. Research by Mintel links the rise of veganism and vegetarianism to the growing use of social media that teaches young people about the benefits of alternative diets and lifestyle

But, like the success of Quorn, the presence of meat-free products on supermarket shelves in becoming mainstream. Co-op recently announced it has been working with winemakers across the world to develop a wider range of vegan-friendly “fining” agents used to filter wines, whilst Tesco has launched a new range of meals, wraps and salads in 600 stores nationwide. Sainsbury’s and Aldi have also released new vegan ranges.

“Changing tastes and demands continue to put the shopper in the box seat in the retail and FMCG market,” explains Andy Grout, Head of Bridgethorne Research. 

“The increasing profile of the health benefits of veganism and vegetarianism and the advantages of embracing a healthier diet has clearly fed through to the shopper. This places the onus on suppliers not only to meet this demand but also to understand it or risk being left behind.”

This is further evidence, adds Grout, of how shoppers are demanding more choice and independence.  This has resulted in a power shift away from the major brands and suppliers, who used to hold all the aces, through the major retail multiples and now to the shopper. Suppliers need to understand that and use it to inform their business models, from marketing and activation to new product development.

“Consumers and shoppers are not one and the same. The shopper will likely be influenced by their consumers but they are the ones who will ultimately make the purchasing decision whether in-store or online. Understanding what drives the shopper, the missions they take when they buy and the factors that influence their purchasing decisions of vegan-friendly items or any other product is vital.”

Effective research is essential in assisting clients in securing the insights they need into shopper behaviour and to provide a deep understanding of their particular target categories. Bridgethorne’s shopper research team helps clients learn about their shoppers and their shopping journeys; using this insight to increase the chances of converting intent into purchase at the point of sale.