Consumer behaviours shift to indulgence at home as Nielsen reveals the year’s top fastest growing products


Britain has ramped up its spend on chocolate, crisps, soft drinks and spirits as stay-at-home consumers have turned to indulgent treats, reveals new data from Nielsen for The Grocer’s 2019 Top Products Survey.

Chocolate was the fastest-growing category in the supermarkets of 2019, racking up an extra £183.5m. Market leader Cadbury Dairy Milk gained an extra £46.4m alone.

Spirits emerged as the third fastest-growing category with £175.2m in extra sales, fuelled by the rise of flavoured gins such as Gordon’s Premium Pink (+£52.6m).

Fizzy soft drinks amassed an extra £164.1m. Following the introduction of the sugar levy in 2018, sugar-free carbonates emerged as the strongest area of growth. Pepsi Max, for example, added £77m to its value, while Coke Zero gained £54.1m.

Finally, Brits spent an extra £134.1m on bagged snacks. This was down to an extra 3.3 million kg of bagged snacks going through the tills, together with a poor potato harvest, which pushed up average crisp prices.

The rise in indulgence at home indicates a more recessionary consumer mindset. Consumers have taken a more cautious approach to spending, opting to remain at home rather than dining out. This is highlighted by an increase in purchases for sharing and multipack formats for chocolate or bagged snacks as shoppers choose to eat at home over several days. The increase in spirits also reflects this shift towards home indulgence and entertaining.

However, consumers still spent on healthier groceries. The meat-free category experienced the biggest percentage uplift, with an +18% increase in sales over the past year. This was closely followed by the free-from category (+9%) and sports and energy drinks (+8%). This shift in behaviour is associated with rising wellness trends, with consumers choosing to purchase more from these categories in response to dietary, lifestyle, economic or environmental reasons.

This has also affected the fresh meat category, which was one of the fastest falling categories, losing over £184m in 2019, though other factors were also in play here, including lower meat prices, health concerns and fewer barbecue occasions compared with the summer heatwave of 2018. 

The Top Products Survey features comprehensive reports supported by Nielsen rankings on the leading brands in over 80 product categories.

Ben Morrison, head of commercial grocery, Nielsen said: “It has been a tumultuous year for British consumers; a year unavoidably and consistently dominated by Brexit uncertainty. This has inevitably caused a drop in consumer confidence. We know that when this happens, Brits reach for the snacks – but there is also an underlying trend here that signals consumer caution, and a bid to manage household budgets by indulging and entertaining at home.”

Morrison continues: “2019 has also seen a rise in meat-free and free-from categories, as consumers become more health, and environmentally cautious, with trends like veganism hitting the mainstream. This has impacted the fresh meat category significantly – beef is the fastest falling product of 2019 – though other factors were also at play in the decline. Depending on how Brexit develops over the next year, it is likely that the demand for meat-free will continue particularly if the economics benefit the consumer.”

Top 10 Fastest-growing grocery products of 2019

ProductActual growth (£ millions)Percentage growth
2Gordon’s Premium Pink Gin52.659.0%
4Kensitas Club49.6147.4%
5Cadbury Dairy Milk46.48.9%
6Red Bull42.212.7%
7Birra Moretti35.471.0%
8Amber Leaf Original33.23.8%

Top 10 Fastest-growing grocery categories of 2019

ProductActual growth (£ millions)Percentage growth
2Rolling tobacco181.86.7%
5Bagged Snacks134.14.4%
6Free from122.39.0%
7Sports & energy drinks99.88.1%
8Lager         68.2           1.9%
9Meat free61.918.0%

Source: Nielsen Scantrack