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Waitrose food & drink trends report 2024: our summary & outlook

 Each year Waitrose publishes a report covering the latest trends it is seeing across food & drink. Here we frame some of the key findings from the latest report alongside some of our learnings from across food-to-go over the past year.


1. Despite the pressures, consumers remain focused on making the most of special occasions

It’s been a year of significant price rises in food & drink, but at the same time, Waitrose called out how consumers are making sure they do celebrate properly, whether it be around birthdays or other special occasions. At the same time, for more everyday lines, they noted more caution around spending on ready meals, not least in less willingness to experiment on more unfamiliar cuisines. And comfort food was called out as a key winner over 2023. Of course, this may also be impacted by the range on offer, but more broadly, two cuisines which do feel to have good broader acceptance, Italian and Japanese food, were both highlighted as areas of renewed growth and focus by Waitrose. Across food-to-go we've seen businesses focused on both cuisines expand over the past year, calling on well-known and less well-known elements to the cuisines of each country.


2. Fermented products increasingly hitting the mainstream

In particular Waitrose called out kimchi, but notable too is the uplift in kefir. Another element called out within this is the growth of functional fizz – not least around kombucha. Kombucha is often the headline act in the expanding range of healthier soft drinks, but there’s much more going on beyond this, and this feels like an exciting opportunity for across retail, food-to-go and foodservice. Waitrose also called out wellness shots, for example in ginger and turmeric, where its range now includes larger bottles containing multiple shots as well as single serve varieties.


3. ‘A shift towards more natural plant-based ranges’

This is something that echoes what we’ve seen more broadly, with menu choices that stand on their own feet as great plant-based dishes increasingly coming to the fore over those with meat alternatives. For us, operators such Farmer J’s and Kaleido Salad Rolls demonstrate this well, attractive broader menus, with a broad and equally enticing selection of meat-based and meat-free menu items. Within the report Waitrose also calls out wider growth in plant-based products such as beans & pulses – and the growth of more premium products in this space, such as those of The Bold Bean Company.


4. High in protein important as a product claim, especially for those under 35

What is interesting however is that in our view, this comes across more prominently as a product claim in other markets. And some recent studies have perhaps pointed to less of a need for additional protein intake vs. previous thinking, so we’d be cautious about how important this will remain in the longer term.  That said, given the right positioning there are definite opportunities here, to which the presence of operators like the multi-site Protein Bar and Kitchen in Chicago is testimony.


5.     Drinks: the acceleration of low & no

Sales of low and no alcoholic drinks across wine, beer, cider and spirits, have grown by 23% at Waitrose over the past year.   Waitrose now has dedicated low & no sections in 253 of its stores, and around 70 products listed. We’d call out products such Guinness Zero and Heineken 0.0 as reshaping the market and perceptions of alcohol free around beer, while concepts such as Nix & Nix alcohol free off licence in the Netherlands are helping to change wider perceptions and promote the whole category.


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