Understanding shoppers is ‘key to the sugar issue’

To keep products on supermarket shelves, suppliers need to understand what shoppers think, according to Bridgethorne.

The category and shopper management specialist has told a London conference that a better understanding of shoppers is the key to keeping products on shelves.

Patrick Finlay, director of marketing and strategy at the company, was addressing delegates at the Food & Drink Federation’s Staying On Shelf event. The event focused on the decisions by some retailers to delist added-sugar drinks and the implications for British food and drink manufacturers.

Finlay said: “Suppliers need to address the sugar issue through a shopper lens, because if we understand what shoppers think and how they behave, it will help inform, firstly, what we should put on the shelf and, importantly, how to keep it there.”

Finlay argued that, while we all recognise the importance of sugar in our diet, the answer may not be as simple as removing all sugary products from the shelves. It is a question of balance, he contended. While acknowledging that there is a responsibility to ensure we all eat a balanced and healthy diet, lurching to extremes in the process may not necessarily be the answer either, he said.

He cited research from the Bridgethorne Shopper Index, the company’s quarterly survey of shopper opinions, which showed that sugar content in food and drinks is the greatest concern for shoppers, being rated as more serious than fat content, additives, salt content and calories and that this is having an impact on buying behaviour.

This concern appears to be driven primarily by health concerns (28.2% cited the fact that sugar caused health problems as their principal concern) and is possibly top of mind due to recent media coverage.

Finlay added: “The danger for suppliers and manufacturers is that they hit the panic button now instead of using a more measured, informed and balanced approach.”

This comes as the government reportedly abandoned plans to introduce a sugar tax as part of its ‘obesity strategy’, earlier this month.

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