Resurgence in heritage foods means success for smaller firms

Resurgence in heritage foods means success for smaller firms
Credit: Africa Studio

The UK is seeing a resurgence of small businesses producing authentic, heritage products, according to ‘Buying British in 2017’, a report from GS1 UK – the supply chain standards member organisation.

New membership data reflects current business and consumer trends as it shows an uptick in more modest-sized new joiners compared to previous years, as consumers increasingly want their food, drink and clothing to demonstrate their local heritage and have fewer air miles.

Businesses in the food and groceries sector account for the largest single percentage (20%) of GS1 UK’s membership. The sector is also one of the fastest-growing, with 12% of new joiners in 2016 originating from the food and groceries sector as shoppers seek to buy British.

In terms of actively thinking about the provenance of food, 79% of consumers said it was a consideration (63% some of the time, 16% all the time) and just a fifth said they never thought about it. Three-fifths of shoppers say place of origin is at least as important to them as other factors, such as price and quality, and 55% specifically say they prefer buying UK brands to support British businesses (citing reasons, such as increased trustworthiness and being more attuned to needs and tastes).

The British beer brewing sector has grown from just 140 breweries in 1970 to an excess of 1,700 – with the UK now having more breweries per capita than any other country. Other craft drinks are also seeing an upswing in demand. The number of gin distilleries has doubled in six years and sales of the spirit recently surpassed £1 billion for the first time.

This increased demand for craft drinks is reflected in the growth of GS1 UK beverage members. And although drinks manufacturers account for a relatively small percentage of overall members – less than 1% of GS1 UK’s total membership – the rate at which they join is increasing significantly. In 2016 they made up 3% of new joiners, swelling their ranks by 41% from 316 to 447 over a 12-month period.

GS1 UK data reveals that the most popular sales channel for members is online via their own websites, with 71% doing this. Following closely behind is online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay, with just over two-thirds (67%) utilising such platforms that allow them greater scale and visibility than they could achieve under their own steam. Reflecting the trend towards more smaller local companies, only a third (35%) use wholesale or distribution channels, and just a quarter (26%) use other retail stores.

Of the major supermarkets, Tesco as the largest retailer (28.1% market share ), affords the most opportunities to GS1 UK’s new joiners over the past five years (33%). But it is Britain’s seventh largest supermarket Waitrose that sits in second place – defying its 5.3% market share – by providing opportunities to 18% of GS1 UK’s new joiners. Indeed, many of the 2,500 local and regional products Waitrose stocks regularly outsell their big brand equivalents. This shift isn’t without motive and is driven primarily by consumer demand.

Gary Lynch, CEO at GS1 UK, said: “Buying British is back in vogue. And it’s the smaller companies that are driving this trend. Brits love an underdog story and this affinity to the unlikely hero isn’t limited to the sporting arena, with shoppers being just as likely to back the small guy at the checkout.”