Deliveries to education stabilise

It’s been hard to avoid the topic of children’s health and their diets. Most recently Ofcom announced its plan to ban adverts for junk food aimed at children, following the well-published changes in the food offered at schools. In September 2006, schools were no longer allowed to offer confectionery, savoury snacks or sugary drinks during the lunch break. Fried foods and manufactured meat products were also outlawed.

Prior to the enforced guidelines, the value of deliveries into education through delivered catering wholesale was falling by 4.1% annually. Utilising ACNielsen’s Delivered Catering Wholesale Service, the only means of tracking product category deliveries via this route to market on a four-weekly basis, we can see that in the 12 weeks to 24th November 2006 these deliveries into education fell by only 0.6% versus the same period a year ago.

So, from September 2006 through to the end of November 2006, the value of deliveries into education through delivered catering wholesale has stabilised, suggesting that the declines in the number of pupils taking school meals have levelled.

Although the value of deliveries has stabilised, we are still seeing significant changes in the mix of products schools are taking. Fresh produce, fruit juice, fresh meat, frozen fish and seafood, and frozen bread have all benefited from the new government guidelines for schools during the 12-week period.

Cakes, confectionery, crisps and snacks, frozen meat and frozen potato products have collectively lost pound;7.3m within education since the start of 2006-2007 school year. All of these categories are outlawed within the new food guidelines for schools so their declines do not really come as any surprise.

Interestingly, only 36% of banned products are purchased by 11-15 year olds within school hours. Most banned products are actually purchased after school through to 8pm, according to Nielsen MyScan (a continuous individual panel that electronically captures consumer on-the-go purchasing information).

Looking at the purchasing of 11-15 year olds also found that one in five of their on-the-go purchases are made either at their school or college. Sixteen per cent of teenagers also use corner shops and newsagents for their purchasing. However, teenagers make most of their on-the-go purchases, 30% in fact, from the major supermarkets and traditional retail outlets.

With the government trying to address media outcry and the reality that some 25% of children may be obese and a diabetes risk by 2020, is it unrealistic to foresee an age restriction being placed on these outlawed products?

That may seem extreme but within the grocery multiples, these outlawed categories are finding growth in the same period we are seeing their declines in education. Data from Nielsen’s Scantrack service, which compiles actual sales data as recorded through the EPoS checkout scanners in all major food retailers in the country and represents sales at more than 74,000 stores, shows categories such as crisps and snacks (+1.5%), confectionery (+2.8%) and carbonated and energy drinks (+3.2%) are all doing well there.

The focus on health and freshness is set to continue not just within schools and children’s diets. In the recently published Top 100 Grocery Brands league table, compiled using Nielsen’s Scantrack service, real fruit smoothie brand Innocent has entered the Top 100 for the first time, at number 63, and is the fastest growing brand with sales up 140% last year to over pound;96m. Danone Bio Activia is the second fastest growing brand and highest new entry at number 60 with sales up by 77% in 2006 to pound;98m.

Yeo Valley Organic also stands out, with sales growth of 25% in the last year. In fact, Yeo Valley is the first fully organic brand to enter the Top 100 league, at number 88. Like other players in the rankings, it is benefiting from the trend to more natural and wholesome products. Other star performers include Kellogg’s Special K, up 17.2%, Tropicana, growing by 27.4%, and milk brand Cravendale, up by 20%. Healthy drinks performed well as a category with all the leading bottled water brands in double-digit growth.

With the major delivered catering wholesalers focusing more on brands such as these, offering locally sourced lines and making healthier variants available to all of their customers, this trend is only likely to gather pace in our own market.

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