During last week's British Tomato Conference, Chris Cowan of Kantar Worldpanel’s Produce Team gave some insight into what is going on and what to expect in UK fresh produce retail. Cowan provided many figures on the British consumer’s shopping behavior and paid special attention to the rise of discounter Aldi. 

According to Cowan, the figures for British growers are looking good; overall, UK households are buying more produce this year compared to last year. The overall tomato sales grew by 2,4% and saw an increase in volume of 2,2%. Plum Baby tomatoes are a standout performer in these figures in regards to variety and are a big contributor to this overall growth.

Cowan furthermore explained that the fresh produce market is no longer driven by prices but by frequency and why tomatoes are such a high frequency market. “It might be difficult to make more people buy tomatoes but you can increase the frequency that they buy them.”

The analyst also showed that Aldi and Lidl are strong performers and headline the market growth: Lidl is really clever with marketing but Aldi still has a larger market share. Next to this, Co-op showed a phenomenal rise in volume and sales last year, which is remarkable after several difficult years.

What about the rise and growth of discounters Aldi and Lidl? Cowan’s figures showed that this has had nothing to do with the recession, but is due to delivering a high quality product for a lower price. Cowan explained where the growth of Aldi came from and presented that only 5% of their sales increase comes from new shoppers, but 48% of their sales increase come from existing customers.

If the two German discounters carry on with their current market development in the UK retail, they will soon have a market share of 20% of the country’s fresh produce market.

Cowan’s presentation ended with a focus on Brexit; how will the UK shopper react to the inflation which will come true? According to Cowan the grocery sector will be hit, but people will still buy food and drinks because they are relatively cheap and still only cover about 9% of our expenditure. 

Yet, he reminded about the focus to Buy British and that the sector will need to make more effort to make the British consumer buy domestic products. “Having a union jack on something isn't reason enough.”