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UK: Consumers cling to “familiar” in crisis - Mintel

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Consumers will cling to the long-standing, familiar brands they know following a year of economic turmoil, according to predictions from UK research analyst Mintel.

Crumbling economic markets and food scares, including the melamine scandal, have fuelled an era of doubt and insecurity, said Mintel, resulting in people seeking out "trusting, open relationships" with food and beverage brands wherever they can.

Consumers will want to know all about the products they buy, from where they were   sourced to how they were manufactured. Because of this, people will be looking for products with a sense of familiarity, Mintel said today (12 November).

Looking ahead to 2009, Joan Holleran, director of research at Mintel, said: "In the coming year, it will be more important than ever for businesses to respond quickly and creatively to changing consumer needs and desires, as we all become more selective in how we spend our money."

As purse strings tighten, consumers will also look for ways to make their pennies stretch further by trading down to cheaper store brands. Mintel predicts that shoppers will mostly trade down to "budget-friendly" solutions to save money, but occasionally will need to indulge in small, affordable luxuries.

"The middle market will increasingly be squeezed and is going to have to prove its worth when faced with competition from newly improved basic lines," added Holleran. "Beyond this, many companies will position their products as a more affordable alternative to going out."

With consumers become more confident and demanding about how they spend their money, even as a recession hits, they will want to stay in control of their choices wherever they can, says Mintel.

Consumers will seek out products and services that give them exactly what they want, when they want it, especially as their budgets tighten. And the Internet will be key. It shows people every option available and gives them the power to demand more, while also allowing them to influence others through user reviews and feedback.

Holleran believes manufacturers will respond with products that suit people's specific needs and lifestyles. "Those companies that give consumers precisely what they want or give them the freedom to customise their purchases will do well. Companies that fail to do this will see consumers walk away."


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