Conscious Consumers: A Year of Change and the UK Consumer

Published Jul 13, 2021

Lucia Juliano, Head of FMCG Research at Harris Interactive

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As the pace of change continues in the insights industry and beyond, it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed our lives, but left a permanent imprint on what we value and our everyday behaviors from how we shop to where we work, what we eat, how we exercise, and beyond.

And in the face of these ongoing changes, we’re continuing to track updates with our Global Barometer — a regular index that taps into a community panel of 36+ million members to provide accurate, timely information on global perceptions in the face of the Coronavirus.

Today, we’re delivering key findings from the Wave 16 Global Barometer Study; specifically, findings based on results from 1,083 people surveyed in the UK. From being more money conscious and health-focused to prioritizing family time, here’s a look at what British consumers report feeling, thinking, and prioritizing 15 months into the pandemic, and where opportunities exist for brands.

Personal finances remain a major concern.

With repeated lockdowns, furloughs, and job losses, financial security remains top of mind. Consumers are placing increasing importance on being financially aware and responsible in terms of money management and savings to help them through unexpected events.

In the UK specifically, financial consciousness remains, with consumers becoming even more aware of their financial pictures and risks. More than a third of British respondents say they’re less well off now than they were before the pandemic, at 35%, and 38% report being worried about their financial security.

This growing sense of financial responsibility impacts everything from saving and spending, shopping habits, and more. In terms of saving, 41% of people say they plan to save more money to prepare for a rainy day or unexpected events, and 34% have vowed to get better at budgeting. Another 23% report having plans to pay off debts.

Spending time with loved ones is a top priority.

As much of the world reopens and vaccines become more readily available, more than a third of Brits said that the biggest change in their lives since March 2020 is the amount of time they now spend with family.

Many went without the option of quality time for months or longer under pandemic-related restrictions, making this one positive, feel-good trend that looks to continue into 2021 and beyond.

Health and wellness are priorities, too.

Research shows that British consumers are still heavily focused on personal health and highly motivated to look after their wellbeing. In fact, 49% report being interested in wellbeing products to improve health, and 38% say they’re looking after their health more by doing things like taking more vitamins and supplements.

In terms of exercise, despite the re-opening of many gyms and fitness centers, 36% of respondents plan to continue exercising outdoors or at home. This indicates a marked change in how UK respondents are keeping fit as a result of COVID.

Some pandemic-induced grocery shopping habits have stuck.

Many COVID-related shopping habits are sticking around, and shopping deliveries are among them. 26% of respondents say they now prefer the convenience of having items delivered to their door that started with the pandemic.

In terms of meal prep, 30% say they’ll continue to experiment with food at home and cook homemade meals despite restaurants and cafes being open.

Further, 32% of people report shopping local and choosing independent, smaller grocery brands in support of small businesses and local communities. And more than half of all respondents (58%) also say they’re trying to buy groceries that have less plastic packaging in a push for more sustainable shopping — a value that has risen in importance over the past year.

Consumers support brands that align with their values.

Speaking of values, they’re at the forefront of British consumers’ minds, and 68% of them will go out of their way to connect with brands who they feel share the same moral compass as they do. 36% of UK respondents also indicated they’ve actually stopped buying from brands that don’t align with their values.

A resounding 84% of those surveyed believe that brands should be held accountable for their actions, holding them in high regard, with high expectations of how they believe brands should act and what they should do.

Stay tuned for more emerging trends and consumer changes as we keep our finger on the pulse of the 2021 UK consumer and beyond!

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