Top-up shoping is worth £16.1bn a year as it shifts from being an unplanned trip to a way for shoppers to buy fresh food “little and often”.

  • 40% of Waitrose sales in London are after 5pm
  • Online shoppers are twice as likely to stock up on cleaning, household and store cupboard items
  • A third of 18 to 24-year-olds visit a supermarket three to four times a week compared to a quarter of people over 55

Waitrose’s Food & Drink Report 2015 found that convenience formats and online shopping has freed consumers from the “constraints” of the weekly shop with many now more “relaxed” about when they buy and more than half shopping locally and fresh “as if they were on holiday”.

“It used to be that “topping up” in a convenience store was unplanned and not particularly desired,” says Jon Arnold, head of operations and trading, convenience at Waitrose. “But now shoppers deliberately work it into their weekly routines. They buy bulky food online, or all in one go, and then nip out in the week to buy dinner for that night.”

It also found three in 10 people shop in a supermarket between three and four times a week, up from a quarter of customers five years ago, while one in 10 go between five and six times a week.

Health boundaries

Meanwhile, shoppers are also setting their own health boundaries, with 80% of people no longer believing the health advice they are given.

The report found that 60% set their own food boundaries such as not drinking alcohol in the week or reducing sugar intake, by far the most popular health trend in 2015. While others have invested in health-related gadgets with the most popular being Nutribullets and spiralisers.

The annual report identified six food and drink trends that Waitrose outgoing managing director Mark Price says aim to help consumer “reimpose” boundaries on their lives. He added: ““Our research has uncovered a fascinating phenomenon.  In this ‘open all hours’ culture, two-thirds of us say we feel overwhelmed by the proliferation of choice available.”

The report also found that more people in every household are cooking and that age is no longer a barrier to experimenting with food.