Opinion – Rob Seery, Drayton Partners

AS the recession hits rock bottom so does our diet, according to research presented on the 24th May in Manchester.

Rob Seery, a Director at Drayton Partners, commented: “Unlike previous recessions, the latest economic downturn has seen shoppers reduce their food spending, with an increase in the amount of fatty and sugary food being consumed.”

The event, ‘Enjoy a Clearer View of the Market’, was hosted by Drayton Partners, who provide bespoke senior management recruitment solutions to the Food and Drink, Consumer Goods and Retail sectors.

The research, presented by Rachel Griffith, Professor of Economics at Manchester University, examines household purchasing trends by a number of factors including: body mass index of the main shopper; social class; family size and employment status. It further evaluates changes in nutritional content as a consequence of reduced income and how households are reallocating expenditure across food categories.

Rob said: “Due to financial constraints, consumers are adapting their shopping behaviours to make their budgets stretch further. They are bulk buying, downgrading from brands to own-label products and hunting out promotions. As a result, the average supermarket food spend has declined by more than 6% to just £1.45 per person per day.”

Findings from the report show food prices in the UK declined substantially from 1975 to 2007, however, since the recent recession, there has been a dramatic increase in the price of food, mainly due to the depreciation of sterling, the increased cost of transportation and the rise of world commodity prices.

Rob commented: “Perhaps most alarming is that the findings show UK food prices have increased by more than 10% since the recession and have remained high, whereas in Europe they peaked at a 5% increase in 2009 and have since steadily declined.”

Data on food purchases were recorded in over 3000 UK households, over the period 2006-2009. The analysis shows that, counter to general opinion, we have reduced the number of calories we consume from nearly 2300 to under 2200 per day. Findings also show that lower income households cut-back their spending the most, whereas higher income households bought more calorie dense foods as a cost-effective alternative.

Rob commented: “Foods which have seen a significant increase in cost include meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and cereals – these are the foods that are being substituted for cheaper, more calorie dense alternatives, and are directly impacting nutrition as a result of higher fat and sugar intake.”

“The changing financial landscape has meant food manufacturers have had to balance the desire for low prices with commodity rises, whilst the retailers have been looking to provide a financially weary nation’s desire for a treat. This combination of low-cost innovation has been a stretch for everyone and only nimble and progressive businesses have been able to exploit this fully.”

Attendees at the dinner included Jason Uttley, Commercial Director at Warburtons; Stuart Wilson, Chief Marketing Officer at Burton’s Foods; Wayne Hudson, Commercial Director at Kerry Foods; and Stewart Gilliland, Non-Exec Director at Booker plc. Following the presentation, there was an informal dinner giving everyone the chance to discuss the findings.

Rob concludes: “As the recession slowly recedes, its aftermath continues to affect the UK’s shopping habits and diet. The Government has successfully succeeded in reducing salt intake and increasing fibre intake with some reasonably draconian measures but it’s unlikely that initiatives such as “5-a-day” and the dietary wheel will be enough to change the eating habits of a nation now more inclined to sweet, fatty food. We can therefore expect the Government to further introduce policies designed to manage the health of the nation and influence the foods we put on our plate.”



Media contacts:
Fran Winn, OPR, Rosie Mason, OPR tel: 0191 232 5690.

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Notes to editors:

• Drayton Partners provide bespoke senior management recruitment solutions to the Food and Drink, Consumer Goods and Retail sectors. The combination of their industry experience and powerful network ensures that they are able to reach further.

• Drayton Partners recruit across the UK and Europe, supporting some of the leading businesses within their chosen categories. They work across all of the key career disciplines including sales, marketing, manufacturing, finance and supply chain.

• The Full Report of this research ‘Food purchases and nutrition over the Recession’ was created and presented by Rachel Griffith, Martin O’Connell and Kate Smith and Funded by the ERC (Workforce Mobility Association) and the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)

This report is available at Click here

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