Shoppers are increasingly turning to meat free diets thanks to trends like “Veganuary” (going vegan in January), according to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel.
Nearly a third (29 per cent) of evening meals now contain no meat or fish at all. This interest in vegan and vegetarian diets is reflected in the chilled aisles – over January one in ten shoppers bought a meat-free ready meal, causing sales to rocket by 15 per cent compared with this time last year.
The sustained interest in vegan and vegetarian diets saw sales of fruit and vegetables grow significantly with sales of spinach up 43 per cent, cherries up 25 per cent and aubergines up 23 per cent.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “People’s perception of what constitutes healthy has changed over the past few years, with shoppers now actively valuing natural products rather than just avoiding foods laden with salt, sugar, fat and additives.
“With trends like veganism increasing in popularity, consumers are looking for alternative products. For example, over the past year shoppers bought an additional £30m of meat substitutes, such as Quorn, while sales of dairy-free cheeses were up 80 per cent.”
The data also showed improving sales at Yorkshire supermarkets Asda and Morrisons which both experienced sales growth of 2.2 per cent in the 12 weeks to January 28.
Kantar Worldpanel said Leeds-based Asda encouraged shoppers to add extra items to their baskets and the grocer particularly saw strong growth in the alcohol, frozen and chilled aisles.
The data showed that customers made an additional five million trips to Bradford-based Morrisons compared with this time last year.
“Morrisons continues to offer its customers more promotions than its competitors, who have moved to simpler pricing strategies,” said Mr McKevitt.
“This seems to be working for the retailer: over the past three months, Morrisons attracted an additional 250,000 shoppers through its doors.”
Despite the renewed focus on healthy eating, the cold weather and flu outbreak took its toll on customers, with sales of over-the-counter painkillers rising 12 per cent and cough sweets and liquids increasing by 17 per cent.
Overall, grocery sales over the 12 weeks to January 28 increased in value by 3.4 per cent compared with 12 months ago.
“Following a record-breaking Christmas, January saw customers rein in their spending, with shoppers spending £1.6bn less in the grocers compared with the month before,” said Mr McKevitt.
Households saved £63.04 on average over January compared with December 2017 and customers spent £3.39 less every time they shopped. Sales of premium own-label products nearly halved.
“Shoppers tend to cut back on premium own-label spend at the start of every year, so while sales of these products nearly halved over January year-on-year sales are still up 10 per cent,” said Mr McKevitt.
“As premium own-label offers consumers quality choices at more modest prices, we can expect to see this customer trend continue.”
Lidl was once again the UK’s fastest-growing retailer, with sales rising 16.3 per cent on this time last year.
Aldi also increased sales by 16.2 per cent.
Tesco remained the fastest growing of the big four with sales up 2.6 per cent.
An extra 311,000 shoppers chose to shop at Sainsbury’s, with shoppers particularly engaging with the supermarket’s Local convenience stores and online offer. Sales at the grocer increased by 1.5 per cent.