Innocent Dairy Alternatives

You may have spotted it. After years of ceaseless innovation there is a plant-based purge going on.

Retailers have trimmed ranges by over 10%. Suppliers are taking similar action of their own: This week Innocent pulled the plug on its plant-based milks. Last week Nestlé scrapped its Garden Gourmet (for a second time) and Wunda brands completely.

Simply put, there have been too many ‘me too’ products. As competition has intensified, share has diluted, shoppers have been sated, and many products have under-delivered. So rationalisation was inevitable.

However, where a brand has a USP, or better still IP, plant-based can still grow. One thinks of Beyond Meat and Meatless Farm. Or Allplants, the DTC ready meals brand, which has sold over six million meals since launching in Ocado, Planet Organic and other independents in less than three months.

The same universal truth applies for all brands, of course. With the cost of living crisis (and the end of the pandemic), sure enough own-label’s share growth to 62% has coincided with a slump in volumes for the majority of brands in this year’s survey of Britain’s Biggest Brands (in our special supplement inside). But those enjoying growth have tended to be innovators, with Walkers, Rustlers, Haribo, Starbucks, Maynards, Fairy, Quaker, Evian all prime examples. (As is Prime, for that matter.) The shopper will always respond well if brands deliver something new and different and meet an unmet need, be it in terms of taste, health, convenience, performance or sustainability.

Innovation is particularly risky in a cost of living crisis, and for buyers the constant cost price increase requests mean there is less time for discussions around NPD, but it’s crucial to success. The troubles at Waitrose, for example, are not exclusively limited to its comparatively anaemic NPD vs the resurgent M&S. But it’s notable that M&S, an own-label retailer, is setting such store in branded tie-ups, following on from signing up babyfood brand Piccolo (in place of Ella’s Kitchen) last week with an exclusive deal to sell new gut-friendly bakery brand Superloaf.