IGD: 71% of shoppers are aiming to reduce their environmental impact this Christmas

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Sustainability, ethics and saving money are prominent themes for food and grocery shopping this Christmas, according to the latest research from research organisation IGD. Following the growing interest in sustainability and plant-based diets over the past year, the Christmas period presents key opportunities for retailers and suppliers to engage with shoppers in these areas.

Highlights from the data include:

  • UK food and grocery sales are set to reach £21.5bn this Christmas, with 1.2% growth forecast
  • 71% of shoppers say they are going to take a specific action to reduce their environmental impact over the season
  • Plant-based alternatives are in the top five for Christmas day meals this year, with 13% of households preparing these choices
  • Despite the view that Christmas is a time to splash out from 69% of shoppers, expected spend on the main Christmas dinner will be down by £9, or £2 per person

Sustainability is high on the agenda this Christmas, with 71% of shoppers saying they are going to take a specific action to reduce their environmental impact over the season. This will be carried out in various ways, with over half (55%) intending to buy more loose fruit and vegetables – highest among those aged 55-65 (63%) and in Scotland (63%) – while a third (34%) plan to avoid buying products that have a lot of excess packaging. Additionally, 32% intend to buy more products that are locally produced, and 31% plan to seek out products with easily recyclable packing.

Shopping local and the location of production are more important drivers of product choice at Christmas than at other times of the year. Indeed, when purchasing products at Christmas the majority of shoppers (80%) say that where it’s been produced is important to them, compared with 71% normally. Shoppers are also conscious of the locality of their products this time of year, with 67% saying the distance travelled is important, up from 62% normally.

Ethical considerations are also front of mind, with 88% of shoppers claiming the welfare of animals involved in the production of food and groceries is important to them. Indeed, half of shoppers (51%) plan to buy higher welfare, or more premium, meats at Christmas. Shoppers are intending to visit a specialist store (64%) and farmer’s markets (40%) over the season, with usage up by 6% and 4% respectively compared to last Christmas.

A notable number of households will be reducing the amount of meat they eat this year, with 13% planning to prepare a vegan or vegetarian meal (vs. 9% in 2018). Significantly, plant-based alternatives have entered the top five choices for main meal options for Christmas day for the first time this year, coming in above ham (12%), pork (8%), seafood (8%), lamb (8%) and salmon (6%). Among those households planning a vegan or vegetarian meal, nearly half of shoppers (47%) claim that more family members are vegan or vegetarian this year than last Christmas. With the growing interest in plant-based diets and lifestyle choices, there are opportunities for retailers to support shoppers with a wide range of choice and recipe inspiration. This will be particularly true for households that don’t normally prepare a vegan or vegetarian meal day-to-day but are planning to do so for Christmas (33%).

Despite the increased interest in upgrading meat choices and shopping at specialist stores, the estimated cost of the Christmas dinner this year is £80.93, down from £89.68 in 2018. Savvy shopping tactics will play a role here, with over half of shoppers (52%) shopping in advance of the event to spread the cost, and 74% of those with loyalty cards planning to use their points to save money, find offers or trade up on gifts.

Simon Wainwright, director of global insights at IGD, said: “More shoppers intend to visit specialist stores, such as butchers or greengrocers, famer’s markets or premium supermarkets this year than last. This is despite the intent to spend less on Christmas dinner, perhaps implying a reduction in quantity purchased in favour of quality. Large stores in particular could face a challenge here – calling out quality, sustainability and welfare messaging year-round could encourage shoppers to visit these stores more frequently at Christmas.

“While environmental concerns are clearly important at this time of year, we can see that there is an opportunity for retailers and manufacturers to engage with shoppers more in this area during the season to make it as much of a priority as at other times of the year. The focus here should be on taking action to reduce the environmental impact of products so shoppers can buy the gifts they want without compromising on their sustainable ambitions.”