A snapshot of the UK food sector in 2017

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The UK food sector has been pressured by several cultural and economic changes over the years however experts are predicting Brexit among others will have a massive influence on the public consumerism and commercial trading of food and the food sector as a whole in 2017. There are several aspects identified that are shaping the food sector, some of which we shall take a detailed look at.

Emotional decision-making

A current trend is for consumers to make decisions regarding their food purchases based on their emotions and beliefs. It has been found, particularly in the younger generation, that there is a rebellion against traditional, ‘older’ products for innovative options that resonate with what they think or believe in. For example, a product which claims to support wildlife or animals will do a lot better. Likewise, a company that details their production methods and is committed to Fair Trade will spark the interest of consumers who are a lot more inquisitive about where their products originate from and who was involved in their manufacture. A Canadian international study found that 60% of 25-34 year-olds seek out food and drink products that reflect their opinions on life and they are also a lot more inclined to try new products.

Informed choices

Analysts have found over the last couple of years (and predict an increase in 2017), that consumers desire to know more and more about the product they are buying, where it came from and who was involved in its production. Consumers like to be informed and feel like all the information is provided before they make a decision on purchasing or consumption. No longer is the ‘what they don’t know, can’t hurt’ attitude prevailing with companies meeting this trend head on and providing full disclosures on product manufacture. There are some benefits to this including accountability, which is extremely important especially considering the UK horse meat scandal of 2013.

‘Free-from’ diets

There is an increasing trend to seek out plant-based diets predominantly led by younger people who object to the non-ethical behaviours of the food industry and, with the rising awareness of the carbon footprints, of what we, as society, consume. In addition to the rise of veganism and vegetarianism, there is also a stronger awareness of all other components of food such as dairy, gluten and sugar and so companies are finding that niche products created without these components are gathering strength in terms of demand and sales. These cultural shifts will hugely impact the food industry in 2017 it is predicted which again, is led by the younger generation.

Busy lifestyles

There is no doubt about it, our lives are infinitely more busy and rushed than in previous decades and so researchers are observing a growing trend for mealtimes to become blurred. There is a significant increase in the snacking habits of people particularly in between breakfast and lunch. Food companies are responding to this by creating more hand-held breakfast foods and foods that still have a focus on nutrition, but can be prepared and consumed quickly while ‘on-the-go’.


Despite a predicted inflation of food prices in the spring of 2017 in the UK due to Brexit negotiations, analysts at Sanford Bernstein do not think this will impact consumers’ buying as food is at an all-time low comprising on average only 12% of disposable incomes. It is thought that potentially food buying could even increase with the predicted rise in inflation as consumers favour ‘eating-in’ rather than ‘eating-out’.

Mike Meek, the procurement director for Allmanhall (a UK-based food supply chain management company) predicts that there will also be a 10% drop in European agriculture workers going to the UK, which historically relies on their labour (European’s normally comprise 65% of the UK seasonal agricultural workforce). This will result in a reduction of harvested produce, a shortage of supply and increased prices to the consumer.

The food and beverage industry in the UK is a complex beast that is influenced by a number of things including economics, consumer psychology and war to name a few. However, the Brexit journey the UK government is embarking upon further influences all industries, the food sector included. It will be interesting to observe how all these things play out for food and beverage manufacturers as they fight to remain profitable in the current social and economic climate.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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