Both Britain and America have been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. But when it comes to the impact this has had on consumers there are some key differences between the nations.
We ran in-depth research into people’s grocery shopping habits in the UK and the US and a number of interesting differences stood out – from how much alcohol we drink to what issues we’re worried about.
Here we highlight the 7 most surprising ways the two markets differ and what these grocery trends mean for the approach F&B brands should take in each country [jump to infographic]
1. Brits are bigger drinkers than Americans
British consumers are less likely to be teetotal than their American counterparts; only 14% practice complete abstinence from alcohol versus 22% of Americans. Brits are also likely to drink more frequently (20% drink regularly versus 17%). But people in both countries are drinking more often than they were in 2019.
Takeaway: The stress of the pandemic has pushed up consumption of alcohol but consumers in both nations are showing rising interest in no and low-alcohol beverages, representing a growth sector for F&B brands.
During the pandemic, well over half of Brits (55%) have regularly shopped online for groceries. In the US, that figure is less than half (48%). Americans in the older demographic (41-66) are the most resistant to online shopping; 35% say they’ve shopped entirely in-store versus 26.5% of British people in this age group.
Takeaway: Getting consumers to try a new behaviour for the first time is the hardest part. With high adoption in the UK among all age groups, online grocery shopping is likely to remain just as popular even after the pandemic is over. In the US, perhaps incentives like free delivery could convince consumers to give online grocery shopping a go?
3. Getting a delivery slot is harder in the UK
While Brits might have moved to online grocery shopping faster than Americans, they’ve not had an entirely smooth experience. UK supermarkets have really struggled with logistics and 57% of shoppers have had difficulty getting a delivery slot (rising to nearly 70% in Wales and Scotland). This has not been the case in the US, where only 23% of online shoppers have faced this problem.
Takeaway: Despite there being more demand in the UK for home delivery, these figures highlight a weakness in the distribution network that isn’t seen in the US. It’s a problem that needs solving if the growth in online is to be sustained. Meanwhile, US retailers should start investing in their fleets for future growth.
4. Americans show higher concern about food safety
According to Americans, food safety is the most pressing issue that the food industry should tackle. Nearly 28% of Americans say keeping things like antibiotics and chemicals out of foods is a top priority, but only 9% of Brits say the same thing. Consumers in the UK are more concerned about plastic packaging; nearly 33% believe this is the most important issue versus 10% in the US.
Takeaway: Staying tuned-in to the issues consumers are concerned about is key for F&B brands. Making changes to your product and messaging to reflect what shoppers care about is important to success in a given market.
5. Brits and Americans choose different ways to be environmentally friendly
The majority of grocery shoppers in both nations take steps to be environmentally friendly, but they do so in different ways. Americans are significantly more likely to buy organic or naturally grown food (30% versus 18%), while Brits are more likely to try to buy loose or unpacked produce (35% versus 23%).
Takeaway: These behaviours reflect the different issues consumers in each nation perceive to be most important (as we saw in point 4). UK consumers are focused on preventing packaging from harming the planet, while Americans are perhaps worried more about personal health.
6. Brits have reduced their spending on toiletries and cosmetics
Pandemic spending trends highlight a few key differences across the US and the UK. Spending on toiletries and cosmetics, for example, has increased by a net 16% in the US, but in the UK the category has seen a net decrease of 6%. Americans are also spending more than Brits on cleaning and household products, frozen food and convenience foods.
Takeaway: A long period of being locked down has resulted in less need for toiletries and cosmetics in the UK, so personal care brands will need to work hard on marketing and promotions to stimulate spending. On the other hand, American brands can exploit growth categories with new product development.
7. Americans show strong interest in protein-added food and drink
In terms of F&B innovation, Americans are really starting to buy into food and drink with added protein. More than 34% of consumers say they already buy products of this type, versus a lower 20% in the UK. Meanwhile, the most popular food innovations in Britain are plant-based milk and meat alternatives. Nearly 25% buy meatless meat versus 19% in the US.
Takeaway: While consumer interests differ, they’re all driven by the same trend; people who are trying to reduce animal products in their diet. Flexitarianism is a growing trend in both countries and F&B brands should be looking at the ways they can support this segment.
Want to know more about winning British and American shoppers in 2021? You can download both reports for free. Get the UK report, with data from 1,000 British consumers or choose the US report to see data from 2,000 American consumers.
Grocery trends infographic