Fast, protein and sustainable food. Consumer trends, according to the Coop Report

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Italians prefer fast, protein and sustainable food. And they are cooking less and less. So reports the Coop Report on the Economy, Consumption and Lifestyles of Italians.

Coop report, consumption at the table

Italians’ food purchases are increasingly oriented toward foods that are easy to prepare, but with the added value of sustainability. At the supermarket,instant food wins (+9.3% in one year). Exotic sushi, increasingly present in large-scale retail, is now an established purchase. Forty-two percent of Italians are frequent purchasers.

Among beverages, the growth of prosecco and sparkling wines is confirmed and the boom in beer continues with 7 million hectoliters purchased in the first 6 months of 2019. The new fashion of flavored waters emerges, whose sales in one year record +164.7 percent in value. Instead, consumption of carbonated soft drinks, which are harmful to health, falls, a recent scientific study confirms.

Foods that are sources of fiber and protein excel in the shopping cart, at the expense of fat and carbohydrates. After years of reduced consumption, 2019 marks the great comeback of meat (+3.5 percent sales in 2019), especially Italian meat.

Made in Italy, or Origine Italia, is of strong interest to Italian consumers. It also prevails over the taste and price of the food. 78% of consumers say they are reassured by 100% Italian origin. A plus worth +4.8 percent growth in one year (2018 over 2017).

Robot cookware and food delivery

There is less and less cooking. In 20 years we have halved the time we spend cooking every day, and we now devote just 37 minutes to it. Instant pots, electric cookware, which promise to make even the most complicated dishes effortlessly, are going crazy in home preparations. In the first 7 months of 2019, sales increased by 72.8%.

In this gastronomic revolution, the concept of ‘course’ also blurs. Traditional first and second courses are favored over snacks (sweet or savory, it doesn’t matter, they both grow in double digits). Same trend is seen for all kinds of ready-made meals, including pre-packaged fruits and vegetables and meal replacement bars.

Restaurants and home delivery of meals are consequently going strong. Spending on non-domestic catering in 2018 accounted for 83 billion euros. While the
food delivery
is now used by 26 percent of Italians.

The ecological sensitivity of Italians is becoming more and more pronounced. 68% approve of the provision of a surcharge to discourage single-use plastic products. A sign of a growing awareness of the invasion of plastics into air, water and food.

The consequences of global warming

In the past 15 years, 1 in 3 fruit trees have disappeared in Italy due to global warming. There are 500 hectares of exotic fruit crops between Sicily and Calabria, But rising temperatures have also increased the concentration of mercury in fish (in 30 years +27% in tuna, for example).

Italy is among the 5 most vulnerable countries in Europe. And the prediction of a three-degree increase in temperature by the end of the century foreshadows a loss of 23 percentage points of per capita GDP, a marked concentration of wealth in favor of some Northern countries at the expense of others in the Southern Hemisphere. An estimated 143 million so-called environmental refugees alone are expected to head north by 2050 (mostly) from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Growing awareness of these dangers is beginning to affect Italians’ lifestyle and consumption choices. Many dream of an eco-sustainable home (55%), buy clothes (13% today and 28% in the future) and green cars (albeit still a niche but growing sales of hybrid cars +30% and especially electric cars +148%), cosmetics green (1 in 4 women choose them, and in 2018 alone, more than 13 thousand products were launched with claim related to sustainability, +14.3% compared to 2017).

Sustainability certifications are a sought-after element among consumers. A well-established trend that food companies need to think about, given that 9 out of 10 Italians say they switch brands without resistance. In the first half of 2019, they rewarded certified products with increased sales. By +21.5 percent for UTZ (sustainable agriculture) certified products and 2.8 percent for Friend of the Sea, for example. In addition to organic, which remains at the top of Italian consumers’ desires, growing 4.6 percent in the first half of 2019.

Coop, the spirit of the consumer association

In line with the trends that emerged from the Report, Italy’s top large-scale retail store brand relaunches further in the groove in policies aimed at the sustainability of branded products.

Marco Pedroni, president of Coop Italia, explains, ”Against a backdrop of cooling consumption and accelerating underlying trends in people’s behavior, Coop has embarked on a major review of its policies in 2019. On the one hand, we have greatly strengthened consumerist choices on the environment, food well-being, and convenience of supply; on the other hand, there has been a change in the internal arrangements of Coop Italia and ANCC that will enable us to address the strategic nodes of the future more forcefully. In late September, we will launch a new information and communication campaign that will highlight the close relationship between Coop’s values and its product and service offerings‘.

‘The Coop Brand Product., which continues to grow in shares, will be the pivot of our future actions and we work on this in close correlation with the green propensity of Italians and their purchasing choices as highlighted in the Coop Report,’ ‘Coop sales in 2018 were 13.4 billion euros, in 2019 we estimate a confirmation of this figure, in a framework that sees on the one hand network rationalizations and on the other a limited number of new openings. At this stage, Coop’s investments are more than 500 million aimed largely at improving the offerings in the current network of stores’.

Commenting on the Report, Luca Bernareggi, president Ancc-Coop (National Association of Consumer Cooperatives), recalls ‘We are a cooperative world made up of different business experiences and different achievements, but we are also a consumer association that cares about the resilience of the country’s system, and we look closely at the expressed intentions of the new government and its consequent actions‘.

In addition to renewing the appeal to the government to avoid the use of escape clauses and VAT increases (introduced by the Berlusconi government in 2011), ‘That with the current decline in food consumption in the face of static price dynamics would cause further negative repercussions‘, Bernareggi calls for the reduction of the tax wedge, to be coupled with citizenship income. The latter measure has already been enhanced by Coop, which has been applying a 5 percent discount to income card holders since July.

Marta Strinati

Professional journalist since January 1995, he has worked for newspapers (Il Messaggero, Paese Sera, La Stampa) and periodicals (NumeroUno, Il Salvagente). She is the author of journalistic surveys on food, she has published the book "Reading labels to know what we eat".