Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Brand Builder Directory

CPG Across the Pond: Insights From the UK

Boredom Kills Creative
April 21, 2023

Boredom Kills Creative is a Brand Design Studio, we design CPG & Hospitality brands that get products on shelves & butts on seats. Previous clients include: Zab's Hot Sauce, Prime Pizza, Iron Lion Soap.

Words by Erin McDougle & Alex Adam


What’s unique about the UK CPG ecosystem?

  • Health benefits - The UK has laws in place which force products to adapt. Sugar Tax and Traffic Light Labelling are two ways the UK enforces health benefits in products - some of which companies use tactically.
  • Pricier products are more decadent - The healthiest products tend to be mid-range, whereas more expensive may indicate better or more 'decadent' ingredients, not necessarily healthier - this feels inversely true of the US market where health benefits command the higher prices.
  • Larger companies are more agile - The largest brands in the UK can jump on trends quick - i.e most "big brands" now cater to vegan or 'healthier' lifestyles - this seems to slow the growth of newer startups aiming to tackle gaps in the market.
  • Prices - Brits tend to be reserved in their spending, and need a lot of encouragement or engagement to buy a new alternative. There's a very small group of consumers willing to pay the $4+ Canned Beverage / $10+ hot sauce etc that is commonplace and more readily accepted in LA.
  • Imported products / Global tastes - Britain is particularly well placed to easily enjoy products imported from Europe and as such we don't see as many traditional staple products being reinvented with great branding (e.g. Graza vs Traditional Spanish or Italian Olive Oil).
  • Different Target market - Many companies target older wealth, mostly due to the historical nature of many brands and businesses. This results in a lot of premium brands producing somewhat dated brand design. It could also be due to the lack of a younger community around CPG products over here.
  • Purchasing Motivators - Brits tend not to be motivated by celebrity endorsement, or founder stories but rather by other factors such as health benefits, ingredients, supply chain etc.
  • Providence - Brands use providence to gain respectability and add to their brand story as there is a lot history behind regional foods. I.e Cornish cream, Scottish Whiskey etc. We're a relatively small island so most people know what each region is famous for.
  • Other unique elements - We have "Royal Warrants" to indicate products used by the Royal family. The UK is also very transparent about traceability of ingredients and produce.

How do UK consumers shop for indie CPG? (online, retail, where?)

  • Indie Delis - Small businesses or independently owned Delis are on the rise in the UK - mostly in city centres or in arts districts. These are typically aimed at a younger market and contain imported, organic or 'on trend' products. Much rarer than in the US market, but we're starting to get there!
  • Farm Shops - Typically in more rural areas, farm shops are aimed towards an older generation and often include hyper-local goods. Like Delis, these are typically all independently owned.
  • Online - Usually through wellness and lifestyle brands found on Instagram or small online stores. There is some movement on Tiktok but it is yet to fully emerge. The beauty and wellness industry thrives through TT, YT and IG through influencers but it is yet to come about for indie food CPG.
  • Foodhalls - Most department stores in the UK have foodhalls. Many of these are high-end and contain 'own-brand' CPG, but it is common for smaller indie brands to have pop-ups or tasters in these venues as well as be stocked on-shelf.
  • Pop-ups and Markets - Pop-ups are becoming more popular and there is more interest for indie CPG brands through events like these as Brits start to get the taste for discovering new products. Markets are popular with smaller and very local producers.

What categories are especially vibrant in the UK CPG ecosystem?

  • Veganism / Flexitarian - One of the biggest trends in recent years, alternative or vegan-friendly products have been adopted by most large brands, beyond just alt-meats. Currently vegan cheese is holding the spotlight.
  • Low and No Alcohol - Many new brands have popped up producing only low or no alcohol, as well as larger companies following suit. This is currently trending in the US too.
  • CBD / Natural Health Supplements - The UK is slowly seeing an adoption of CBD and health brands for mental health reasons. THC is illegal in the UK and most products in the UK contain only incremental amounts of CBD compared to the US.
  • Kombucha / Fermented drinks - Kombucha has had a huge rise over the past few years, but is now slowly merging with Low/No Alc, positioning fermented drinks as a 'healthy' yet premium alternative to alcohols like wines or beer.
  • Flavourbombs - The rise of 'Umami' and the hunt for condiments that add easy depth to dishes. I.e miso pastes, bone broth (not as prevalent yet due to veganism), chili oils and crisps, and truffle flavour.

What messaging & positioning are brands leaning on in the UK (e.g. health conscious etc)

  • Stress reduction - as seen with the rise of Low/No Alc and CBD products, Brits are starting to choose products that reduce anxiety or the possibility of a hangover.
  • Gut health - Products are starting to promote the idea of 'gut health' this is tied in with the growth of Kombucha or Fermented foods.
  • 'Shop Small' - A big trend in the UK across all categories, mostly due to Covid threatening small businesses. Small businesses have to work harder on flavour and product to thrive. Larger businesses try to emulate the 'small business' feel.
  • Total transparency - Brands are leaning into the traceability of their produce. Being fair trade or being listed as a 'B corp' is particularly important to some brands to emphasise that their brand is making a positive impact.
  • Free from - Customers are choosing the alternatives, a growth in plant-based products across categories has prompted a growth in more inventive products suitable for Vegan, GF or meat-free diets.
Brands featured in this story
You might also like these stories
No items found.