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May 3, 2002

EUROPE: Rising stress drives consumers to spend £80.6bn on treats

There is a growing trend towards consumers indulging themselves with their favourite treats and comfort foods, according to the new report, "Everyday Treating", by independent market analyst Datamonitor. Almost half of all consumers in Datamonitor's European survey cited stress as being a motivation for treat purchases. Consumers are willing to spend an average of 9% more on a treat purchase than its everyday equivalent. For manufacturers, the treating occasion represents an opportunity to capitalize on consumers' desire for quality over alue by focusing new product development and marketing efforts on the indulgence aspects of products.

There is a growing trend towards consumers indulging themselves with their favourite treats and comfort foods, according to the new report, “Everyday Treating”, by independent market analyst Datamonitor.

Almost half of all consumers in Datamonitor’s European survey cited stress as being a motivation for treat purchases. Consumers are willing to spend an average of 9% more on a treat purchase than its everyday equivalent. For manufacturers, the treating occasion represents an opportunity to capitalize on consumers’ desire for quality over alue by focusing new product development and marketing efforts on the indulgence aspects of products.

As the pace of life increases, the role for self-indulgence and treating in consumers’ everyday lives is becoming more important. The treating moment is also one in which consumers are prepared to trade-up to more premium products. Datamonitor has identified over £80.6bn (US$118bn) of spending on food, drink and toiletries across Europe which consumers regard as treats.

Datamonitor’s research finds that diagnosed cases of depression across Europe are increasing. Clearly there are significant differences between clinical depression and everyday stress, however prevalence of depression provides an indication of the extent of stress in modern life. Datamonitor’s consumer survey questioned respondents’ motivations for treating themselves. The most commonly mentioned response, cited by 50% of respondents, was “I just like it from time to time”, indicating that regular treating has already become part of many consumers’ consumption routines. “In response to stress”, cited by 47% of respondents was the second most commonly mentioned motivation, showing that some consumers deem this behaviour necessary for their mental well-being.  

Food, drink and toiletries at the forefront of everyday treats

“Obviously, buying treats is not a new phenomenon, however consumers are more frequently treating themselves with food, drink and personal care products. Research also points to an increasing trend towards ‘cocooning’, which manifests itself as consumers consoling themselves with ‘comfort’ products. Consumers are becoming more adept at discerning which products are qualitatively better than others and this is driving treating culture, in the sense that consumers are aware that certain brands offer high quality and other brands offer value-for-money. This then drives the trend of choosing indulgent products for occasional consumption and better value-for-money products for regular consumption,” comments Neil Broome, Datamonitor consumer markets analyst and author of the report.

Datamonitor’s research for this report derived the proportion of food, drink and personal care products that are bought as treat purchases:

73% of fragrance purchases are considered treats
51% of cosmetics purchases are considered treats
30% of confectionary purchases are considered treats
53% of desserts purchases are considered treats
29% of wine purchases are considered treats

Consumers’ willing to pay 9% more for a treat

For manufacturers, the treating occasion represents an opportunity to capitalize on consumers’ desire for quality over value-for-money by focusing new product development and marketing efforts on the indulgence aspects of products. Datamonitor’s research found that, on average, consumers spend 9.1% more on products that they consider treats than the equivalent product bought within their normal routine. However, this does not always point
towards consumers buying the most expensive premium products. Datamonitor’s consumer research highlighted the emergence of the ‘affordable premium’ sector as the majority of respondents admit to trading up to a moderately luxury brand when buying treats for themselves.

Answers to the question “When you do buy treats for yourself to what extent do you trade-up to expensive or luxury brands?”

Response   % of respondents

Always-Maximum luxury          6.4% 
Always-Moderate luxury          14.1% 
Sometimes-Maximum luxury     30.8% 
Sometimes-Moderate luxury     41.0% 
About the same as normal         7.7% 

Source: Datamonitor

Manufacturers and retailers have driven treating through a redefinition of the boundaries between premium and mass-market, to create mid-market ‘affordable premium’. Retailers have also played an important part in bringing premium products to a wider range of consumer groups, and driving a cultural trend towards frequent self-indulgence and treating. Premium food has traditionally been associated with grand food halls such as Harrods in
London. Now supermarkets, long considered the great leveller of food retailing by selling only commodity items, offer a two-tiered range of food and drinks by selling high quality food and wine products in addition to staples like cereals and frozen foods. One of the most important recent developments has been the introduction of premium private label. Once considered merely a ‘me too’ alternative to branded food, drinks and personal care, private label is increasingly the first choice of many consumers and out-performs branded products in many premium categories. 

More stress, more money, more treats

Rising disposable incomes will contribute to an increase in the average amount that consumer are willing to pay in order to trade up to premium treat product from 9.1% to 9.9%.  Rising stress levels will contribute to consumers’, on average, buying treat purchases 3% more frequently each year. Together, these two facts will combine to create a total treating market in Europe worth nearly £92.4bn by 2006, representing a 2.7% per annum growth in ‘treating’ expenditure, compared with 1.9% per annum growth in the
underlying markets themselves.

“Consumers are extremely demanding of their treat products and very loyal to those which meet their requirements, but quick to dismiss those which do not. Treat purchases are highly impulse-driven occasions and manufacturers need to take best advantage of it by focussing on instant marketing techniques such as point-of-sale promotions. Treating is also an emotionally driven type of purchase and it is essential for manufacturers to appeal to consumers’ emotional needs. For example, it is clear that some products
promote themselves primarily on their image or social functions. While this does have some impact on the motivations for treating it is important to focus on the experiential qualities of a product to target the treating market,” comments Neil Broome.

To have a closer look at the report “Everyday Treating” click here.

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