The Importance of Challenger Brands


Grocery has often had long periods of stability, with shelves of the same tried-and-true national and international brands filling our shops year-after-year. However, with the incredible growth of plant-based eating and environmentalism taking the world by storm, the market is changing faster than ever, with new products and brands racing to market.

In 2018, one of the UK's leading trade shows, Lunch!, recorded a 44% increase in NPD entrants over 2017, and of these innovations, many of them are vegan-friendly. The Grocer recently reported that an astonishing 20% of all food NPD is in the plant-based sector.

Rewind 18 months and supermarket buyers were still unsure precisely what veganism or plant-based meant. Now forward-thinking retailers are stocked full of new brands and sub-categories in this fast-moving sector. The biggest ones are not only adding new brands but are also driving the category forward with their own lines: Waitrose has launched over 40 vegetarian and vegan lines in a dedicated fixture; Tesco has had massive success with its Wicked Healthy range, headed by super-chef Derek Sarno; M&S has its own "Plant Kitchen" range, and Sainsbury's is continually innovating through its Future Brands team (though this isn't really own-label).

Consumers are now more informed about their health and purchasing than at any point in history. Social platforms, especially Instagram, allow FMCG brands to connect with their consumers at a visual and personal level that was previously not possible.

Technology also levels the playing field for challenger brands in vying for the attention of the consumer. Smaller brands that recognise the importance of building a loyal tribe and through direct engagement can often be successful at developing new customers and creating brand loyalty. Authenticity helps drive connection to the larger supermarkets, too, as they incorporate these brands into their fixtures.

At Plantifull, we've been amazed at how the plant-based world has grown since our launch 15 months ago. We've sold 20,000+ meals, launched new lines, and ventured into a new space with our vegan jerkies. These are exciting times for a new category that is rapidly becoming more established, but which still has a long way to go.

We hope to see more collaborations between supermarkets and challenger brands so that we can continue to innovate and shape this industry over the next five years!

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