Food with natural properties has always been in great demand in Ireland and is widely considered as a basic requirement by the country’s consumers. As a result, naturally healthy packaged food performed well in 2020 as it benefited from its association with health, natural wellbeing and a back-to-the-roots approach among many consumers who sought more natural options in packaged food during the pandemic.
Unlike in other areas of health and wellness packaged food, stockpiling had somewhat of a negative effect on natural healthy packaged food in 2020. Whereas other types of health and wellness products can be stored in cupboards, fridges or freezers and thus are more suitable for stockpiling, some less processed naturally healthy packaged foods such as high fibre wholegrain/wholemeal/brown baked goods, sour milk drinks, butter and spreads with added olive oil generally have shorter expiry periods and are therefore not suitable for longer periods of stockpiling.
Many Irish consumers took to home cooking during the long periods of lockdown. Home cooking generally takes time, and, under normal circumstances, many consumers are not able to cook from scratch during the week, given their increasingly hectic lifestyles.
Although many naturally healthy packaged foods are unsuitable for home stockpiling due to their short shelf lives, some products, such as NH high fibre pasta, cereal bars, NH rice and breakfast cereals have longer expiry dates and were subject to some stockpiling during the COVID-19 pandemic. These areas are likely to witness relatively steep declines in 2021 as consumers use up their stocks, which will drag down overall performance of naturally healthy packaged food over the forecast period.
When the effects of stockpiling in 2020 are taken out of the equation, naturally healthy packaged food is set to perform well over the forecast period. These products offer convenience and affordable prices, which will be a critical factor going forward given the high levels of unemployment and the impacts on household budgets of the global health crisis.
One of the main motors in the development of naturally healthy packaged food has been a constant stream of innovations, especially among smaller and easier to refresh areas, such as NH cereal bars, nuts and seeds and, to some extent, bread. This maintained consumer interest in these products and helped drive sales during the latter part of the review period.
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