The dramatic growth in sales of halloumi – the once niche Cypriot cheese – provides further evidence that our changing habits are putting the shopper in a position of previously unseen power and influence in the retail and FMCG market.

This assessment comes after the news that Britain is consuming more of the cheese than any other European country. Tesco has reported a sales increase of 132% across its Finest line for the year 2011-2012, while Waitrose reported that its sales of halloumi were up 104% in the same period.

In recent years, a combination of short- and long-term trends have combined to put the shopper in control in the retail and FMCG market. Increased exposure to other cultures, tastes and flavours has resulted in a growing demand for ethnic foods like halloumi, placing the onus on suppliers not only to meet those demands but also to understand them. The whole family may consume the halloumi but only one person – the shopper – actually makes the purchase.

Our changing eating habits, including our increasing enthusiasm for ethnic foods, shows 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 halloumi or any other product is vital.

Suppliers also need to understand that those who buy their products are not necessarily the same as the retailer’s customers. A halloumi supplier will be interested in every shopper who buys their cheese wherever they buy it, whereas Tesco, Waitrose, Lidl and others will only be interested in those who shop in their stores. The two are not the same. If suppliers are only focusing on consumers or retailers’ customers and not concentrating on their shoppers – the bridge that links the two – they cannot be certain they are reaching the right people, with the right message and at the right time and place. And this means that their activation activity and the way their budget is being spent must be less than optimal.