01 Oct 2022

Premium strawberries boom in UK, sales up 64 percent

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The berries category in the UK is worth £1.7 billion in the past 12 months. Strawberries account for 46 percent, blueberries 28 percent and raspberries 21 percent. In the recent International Strawberry Congress, market trends and results were analyzed for supermarkets that have deployed the best strategies to enhance the premium segment, which is proving to be the golden goose for strawberries as well.

Over the past five turnover years, strawberry retail has increased by 159 million pounds with steady growth only partly generated by price increases. In fact, over the past five years, quantities have increased in four out of five years. In the last three years, strawberry quantities have fluctuated from 140,000 to 150,000 t per year.

Between August 2021 and August 2022, strawberry sales increased by 1.2 percent, driven mainly by an inflationary effect on prices, which saw them increase by 6.3 percent. This price increase caused a 4.4 percent drop in purchase frequency, which resulted in a drop in turnover of nearly 35 million pounds.

Penetration, that is, the percentage of households that purchased at least once during the period, is also currently at its lowest in the last five years (78.3 percent).

These dynamics are the result of the contrasting performance of the different segments: while the standard segment realizes a decline, surprisingly it is the premium segment that realizes the greatest growth.

Aldi's premium strawberries
Premium strawberries for sale at Aldi UK


Premium product has seen an increase in spending of more than 60 percent over the past 12 months, with all spending components in positive territory: penetration, frequency of purchase and quantity per buying occasion. The increase in average prices per kilogram for the premium category has not discouraged purchases; on the contrary, it has driven revenue growth.

PREMIUM, THE SIZE OF THE SEGMENT IN THE UK

But how much does the premium segment represent in the UK strawberry market? The standard segment continues to account for between 70 percent and 80 percent of total strawberry spending by British households.

But the situation is highly differentiated according to different retailers of the large-scale retail sector.

In fact, for Tesco and Sainsbury's the Premium category accounts for between 13 and 14 percent of strawberry spending. For Asda, the incidence is around 7 percent, while for discount retailer Aldi, the premium segment makes up almost a quarter of total sales with 22 percent.


THE OUTLOOK FOR THE PREMIUM SEGMENT

What are the prospects for the premium segment for strawberries? According to analysts, there is still ample room for growth; in fact, the premium segment accounts for 7.8 percent in the fruit department while for strawberries on average only 5.8 percent. This means that there is untapped market potential that equates to sales of more than 15 million pounds.

Tesco's premium strawberries
Tesco's "finest" line

While for many products consumers have downsized their purchasing behavior, shifting to lower categories, the reverse has happened for strawberries: consumers have shifted upward, seeking the higher quality product while also increasing their spending as a result.

This upward shift was mainly realized in the social segments of consumers with greater economic possibilities (ABC1), but the less affluent classes (C2 and DE) also saw a trend in the same direction.

While all household groups saw growth in strawberry spending in the premium segment, the largest increases were realized in the segments of childless households, households with children of childbearing age, and so-called "empty nest" households, i.e., households with children who have now left home.

SUPERMARKETS, SOME PEOPLE HAVE NOT REALIZED THE POTENTIAL

Among supermarkets, it is Sainsbury's that is performing the most below the market average: in fact, according to Kantar's research, it is almost 8 million pounds in sales that it is losing by not adequately exploiting the premium segment within its strawberry assortment.

Sainsbury's premium strawberries
Sainbury's premium line


Sainsbury's is also paying for errors in format choices: in fact, it appears that the weight given by the chain to large formats is excessive, while in the market the greatest growth is being realized on the 250 g format instead.

ASDA's premium strawberries
Premium strawberries for sale at Asda

The same strategy, i.e., preferring the 400 g format for premium strawberries, is yielding opposite results for the Asda supermarket, which in contrast has an audience represented mainly by families with children.

CONCLUSIONS

The premium segment of the strawberry category tripled its sales in the past five years, despite an increase in average prices per kilogram. There is still ample room for growth, thanks to the fact that in strawberries the Premium segment still has a low incidence compared to the total fruit department.

The supermarkets that understood their consumers' needs best are the ones that performed best, and the differences are very pronounced among the different retailers.

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