The FIFA World Cup has come around again, and with it, new trends are emerging that look set to continue into 2023. Wholesalers, retailers and independents are experiencing increased sales in some predictable areas, with a few notable surprises. Ben Mckechnie, managing director of UK-based snacks wholesaler, Epicurium, tells us more.
It must first be recognised that the World Cup 2022 is a very different event from previous years. The tournament is set against a backdrop of UK wintertime, and in a period where spending is typically focused on Christmas gifting. This environment has had a profound impact on the way consumers are expected to shop on the trends that are emerging, and on the reaction of the food and beverage industry. Typically, with football tournaments taking place in the summer months, retailers and wholesalers have previous sales data to draw upon. However, the circumstances surrounding this event have presented some challenges for the industry. This has led to some looking to pair back their offering with the expectation that consumers will spend money elsewhere, most notably on festive products. Naturally, the expectation is that consumers will do minimal outdoor hosting, which has significantly moved the focus of interest when reviewing orders.
Coupled with this, many of the games are scheduled to be played during the day or early evening, and the impact of this is that sales to offices and workplaces are up, as vending and employers look to stock up on snacking options for those wishing to watch the games at lunchtimes and breaks.
The world flavours
For those watching the games in the evening, with darker nights for those in the UK, trend data shows that football fans are likely to stay home, purchasing snacks for themselves as opposed to watching with friends and relying on a host to provide the snacks. This has meant that sales of more exciting, exotic flavours are seeing an increase, while standard go-to flavours take a backseat. International flavours, such as Manchego and green olive from Manomasa, lentils with chilli and lemon from Eat Real, chipotle at Emily Crisps and wasabi from Itsu, are all trending upward when compared to previous months.
This trend embraces the multicultural nature of the sport as well as the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, which has driven an increase in sales of smaller, less expensive home indulgences. Cost-of-living continues to be front of mind for consumers. However, as yet the data suggests that shoppers continue to look toward brands that suit their lifestyle. When times are getting tough, they look to be choosier about where they spend their pound, but that choice is often more about cutting out the snacks they are ambivalent about so they can keep on purchasing their favourite brands.
The healthy offering
December is typically a month of indulgence and decadent snacking for most. However, as the trend for protein foods and good gut products continues to gather speed, there is cause for investment in such lines by retailers. Sales of healthier alternatives, such as lentil chips and plantain options, have seen a 30% increase in the months leading up to the World Cup. In addition, healthier protein SKUs have shown a significant increase, up by 37% on average. This may be explained by the wider consumer trend around health and wellness, as well as the increased focus on footballers’ fitness, with behind-the-scenes training features of the England squad widely distributed on social media.
Such news will make positive reading for those implementing the new HFSS legislation across the industry. Retailers are able to take the opportunity to replace non-compliant goods in key locations and capitalise on customer trends.
With traction on new and emerging trends, it is easy for retailers to get complacent when selecting traditional snack options. However, the data would suggest that this would be a mistake and that equal time should be spent planning for existing best-sellers, as well as new alternatives. As expected, gains can be seen in products that are typically paired with drinks, such as salty, crunchy and meaty offerings. Sales of these classics are up between 25-50% across a range of brands at Epicurium. One notable mention is Cheesies Crunchy Popped Cheese, a snack that hits the core criteria and, with it, has seen a 100% increase in sales.
The industry impact
Event sales data offers a concentrated number set that can then be applied to future trends, and so with that in mind, what does this tell us about emerging trends in snacking for 2023? The cost-of-living crisis will continue to affect every aspect of the industry and so retailers, wholesalers and vendors will do well to review best-sellers and stick with a selection of core branded products. This may also have an impact on the adventurous nature of the consumer, with customers looking to spend on certain home indulgences. In addition, the impact of health and wellness cannot be understated, with a strong opportunity for growth in these areas, in line with HFSS restrictions. The current set of circumstances provides wholesalers, such as Epicurium and its customers, the opportunity to review stock and champion emerging new brands to offer more choice for consumers.
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