With consumers increasingly conscious of their spending and the impact of their choices on their health and the environment, the 2022 UK Food and Drink Shows offered some predictions on the future of the industry. From the latest sustainable solutions to innovative ways to offer value for money, the shows provided a wealth of inspiration for those looking to stay competitive in the current climate.

Throughout the show last year, we spoke to exhibitors, speakers and visitors to get an idea of what their priorities were for 2023. Here are some of the highlights...

Consumers want bang for their buck
The cost-of-living crisis is a reality that can't be ignored, and consumer confidence is suffering. As the cost of food and drink production and distribution continues to soar, so do the prices at the checkout. With disposable income also taking a hit, consumers are becoming more cost-conscious, and their spending habits are changing.

Gone are the days of splurging on premium food options. Instead, savvy shoppers are opting for more budget-friendly options. In this challenging climate, retailers need to focus on providing value for money to retain customer loyalty. Adam Leyland, Editor-in-chief at The Grocer, agrees that "People are watching their pennies and they are much more conscious than they have been."

To remain competitive, retailers must understand their customers' needs and adjust their strategies accordingly to gain customer loyalty. Flora Zwolinksi, Senior Insight Manager at Lumina Intelligence suggests that "Brands and outlets really need to be thinking about how they can be pushing that value message to really encourage shoppers to continue spending with them." Retailers can be offering discounts and promotions such as meal deals and 2 for 1 offers or expanding their range of own products. Retailers should also focus on high quality where they can, for the customers that are willing to pay a little more.

In uncertain times like these, adapting and understanding the needs of consumers is essential.

Balancing budget and the environment
At the UK Food and Drink Shows 2022, visitors were looking for ways to make their choices more sustainable. With an increasing focus on environmental impact, the food and drink industry has a crucial role to play in being more sustainable. Sam Bagge of Walsingham Farms Shop said, “In particular today I've come to find packaging renewables and eco packaging and that's really important to see” He noted the importance of finding eco-friendly packaging solutions indicating retailers like Sam are also probably trying to do the same.”

Head of Business Development for Loop, Ed Thorne, was a speaker at the shows and emphasised the importance of reducing packaging waste by increasing the amount of reusable packaging. “I would expect [in the next few years],reuse to still be a minority, but a very significant minority of total consumables that are going into the hands of consumers through mainstream retailers and brands all across the UK.” He predicts that the reusables will continue to grow but the challenge is making it convenient for consumers to adopt. “All of us inherently find it difficult to change our behaviour, so the key challenge is making it convenient enough that consumers don't have to think twice”

As consumers face the ongoing cost of living crisis, it's important for businesses to make sustainable solutions accessible and easy to adopt. By providing practical, convenient solutions for sustainability, businesses can help their customers make choices that are both good for their wallets and good for the environment.

Innovation continues...
2023 is shaping up to be a year of continued innovation in the food and drink industry. At the 2022 shows, buyers were on the hunt for new market trends and cutting-edge products to offer their customers. Jill Barker of Middlewick Farm Shop commented “I'm just trying to see what everybody is looking at, what the newest products are, what are other retailers looking to sell?”

With a heightened focus on health after the recent global health crisis, consumers have become more health conscious. Flora Zwolinski of Lumina Intelligence notes, “Consumers are increasingly demanding healthy options.” Joe Hayward of BP adds, “There's some great growth in categories out there. Healthy snacking is one and there's some really brilliant product innovation coming down the line for this category.” The rise of low and no alcohol options and the popularity of healthy snacks are just a few examples of this trend.

Retailers should take note of these changing consumer behaviours and consider expanding their product lines to meet the demands of a health-conscious market.

The food and drink industry continues to face many challenges in 2023, including the cost-of-living crisis and the need for more sustainable practices. Consumers are becoming more cost and environmentally conscious, making it important for retailers to provide value for money and accessible sustainable solutions. It is also predicted that this year will be a time of continued innovation, as consumers become more health-conscious and seek new market trends and products.

These trends will continue to be front and centre at the shows in 2023, through our brilliant exhibitors (like you!), but also throughout the thought leadership content on display across our features at the shows.