Making it easy

The changing face of convenience foods for the contemporary consumer

The changing lifestyles and tastes of UK consumers has had a big impact on the convenience foods market with the demand for healthier choices fuelling a dramatic shift in eating habits.

From grab and go protein bars, plant-based snacks and healthy crisps to portable solutions for lunch and dinner, health aware consumers are actively paving the way for brands to capitalise on the provision of healthier choices within the convenience foods sector.

One company working ahead of the curve is Fullgreen – pioneers of shelf stable Cauliflower and Vegetable Rice’s sold in convenient and portable pouches. Witnessing a dramatic rise in sales in both the UK and US, Fullgreen has turned its attention to innovation with several new launches planned for 2020 destined to shake up the category.

Commenting on the current landscape, founder Gem Misa said: “Modern life has become busier. Everyone is on the move and so eating at home and cooking from scratch is happening less frequently. This makes convenience food so much more relevant because more and more people need this to fit into their fast-paced lifestyles. It has also opened up an opportunity for a lot of healthy innovation in the category because many of these busy consumers do not want to sacrifice their health to their hectic schedules.”

Plant-based power driving change in the sector
The growth in veganism and plant-based living is also playing a big role in shaping trends. A recent annual food and drink report published by Waitrose suggested one in eight Britons are now vegetarian or vegan with a third choosing to dramatically reduce their meat consumption. The triggers for change were driven by increased awareness of animal welfare, environmental and health concerns – collectively creating a paradigm shift to the UK diet and the way consumers like to eat.

With Waitrose publishing stats like these it’s clear to see what supermarkets will be wanting to stack their shelves with in 2020 – plant-based foods tha 9are clean and healthy, with minimal ingredients consumers can understand.

Time saving as a core message
Underpinning the future of convenience foods will be a clear and distinct message around saving time, with products that are transparent, healthy AND rapid to make. As such, brands are likely to be increasingly focused on building rapport with consumers by delivering all of the benefits they need and want for both health and lifestyle.

“Time is a limited resource that people can’t get back. Offering consumers products that allow them to free up more time in their day to do more important things is one of the most valuable things you can offer as a brand,” said Gem.

“Better innovation and quality of products have taught consumers to start expecting more from convenience food. A lot of exciting start-up food companies have been popping up in the convenient space that are showing that you don’t need to compromise on health or quality when you want a quick and convenient meal. For us as a brand, we know how critical that message is.”

The price is right…
As brands fight for space in a burgeoning market, innovation and choice will become critical tools in the plight to capture consumer attention. But central to all of this of course is price. The growth of plant-based foods has shifted the vegan market from esoteric to mainstream – meaning cost is a critical point to nail from a brand perspective to ensure widespread appeal.

“Meeting consumers on quality and price is essential to get right,” said Gem. “Our mission is to make healthy, plant-based eating accessible to all and to achieve that we need to keep the cost to the consumer fair and manageable.”

With Brexit looming and economic uncertainty on the horizon, it’s also possible consumers will be less likely to eat out, leaving a wide-open space for brands to introduce convenient meals that can be enjoyed at home, at a fraction of the cost.

If we look back to the last recession, the brands that prevailed were the ones that effectively responded to the fall in consumer spending through the provision of high-quality foods at an affordable cost. And if history repeats itself with the arrival of Brexit, we’re likely to see the same response from brands and consumers – just with better innovation and choice paving the way.

Fullgreen specialises in shelf stable riced veggies which can be found in the rice aisle of most major UK supermarkets. It will introduce breakfast, lunch and dinner options to the market this year – bringing a variety of portable choices to health-conscious consumers who are actively looking for quality nutrients and transparency of labelling.