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How often are commercial teams analysing macro and micro-environments? Pre Brexit once a year, post referendum once a month, during the pandemic…everyday? It can be quite difficult to step back and look at the political, environmental, social, technological and economic issues that businesses cannot control but still affect the way advertisers market themselves; and to connect these factors with how consumers respond, the way suppliers react, and a company’s stakeholders and its internal environment.


Consumer behaviour is in a state of flux, and brands have done their best to keep up and change their strategies in the world that we live in now. In our recent ALF Talks webinar,  ITV’s Head of Commercial Marketing, Rachel Compton, mentioned a bakery in the north of England they started working with, quickly building an e-commerce site and selling baking products which we all know sold out whilst in lockdown. We also saw a renewed interest in arts, crafts and gardening, which I am sure will continue.  


It is no surprise that online and direct-to-consumer brands, or food delivery and meal kit to-your-door services have been so popular during this period. Some companies have decided to launch new products or call an agency review to help them devise a new strategy.

Some things are difficult to predict and events occur which we can’t do anything about. Nevertheless, through a crisis, if we think about how the environment in which we live in will affect what consumers will do, there are plenty of opportunities around. For example, most consumers opted for staycations during the summer. The traditional road trip was back in vogue. And when we have road trips, we have road trip snacks. Think of all the types of meat, confectionery, cheese, protein and health snack brands you could had been working with? Mizkan launched a D2C veggie stick called Zenb. Mondelez made it clear that it was on the hunt to acquire healthier snack brands and to find a way to own a product line not affected by the sugar taxes.


If we look a few months ahead, Mondelez’s Chief Executive has warned that a no-deal Brexit at the end of the year without a trade deal would be “very disruptive” for the company’s supply chain between the UK and mainland Europe. On the other hand, Unilever warned  that it would reconsider its plans to move if it was affected by the proposed Dutch tax bill, which has been designed to penalise companies with revenues of more than €750m that leave the Netherlands for lower-tax jurisdictions. This would have affected its advertising plans for the UK market, except that Unilever’s Dutch shareholders have backed plans to transfer the company into a London-based entity to simplify its corporate structure, so there is some good news there.


A social trend that has affected the UK’s national drink market, is changing tea habits. Unilever said earlier this year that sales of traditional black tea have been declining in developed markets due to changing tastes and that it was reviewing its global tea business that includes brands such as Lipton, Brooke Bond, Lyons and PG Tips. Coffee is now the king of hot beverages in Britain. “Coffee continues to be the second most consumed drink in the UK, just behind water, but ahead of all other hot beverages and soft drinks,” says Emily Turner, Costa brand manager at All About Food which manufactures and markets many of the brand’s retail products.


  • Covid-19 drove strong growth in take-home sales of hot beverages. The market switched from 1.7% value decline [Kantar 12 w/e 26 January 2020] to 13.3% growth in the latest period. 
  • With most of the UK’s 26,000 coffee shops closing at the end of March, the lion’s share of growth was driven by coffee. Sales were up 16.8% in value and 15.2% in volume. 
  • The growth centres around roast & ground coffee,” explains Kantar analyst Madeleine Peck. “Pods saw strong growth of 19.9% alongside 21.2% for filter cafetières and 32.9% for beans. Coffee bags are the smallest sector by value but grew by 55.3%.”
  • This suggests shoppers have been trying to recreate that coffee shop experience at home. The growth of coffee bags also reflects this with this new format being adopted by Nescafé Azera and Taylors. 
  • Tea fared less well with value up 3.9% and volumes down 2.8%.
  • Tea’s decline is mainly driven by standard black,” says Peck. “Decaffeinated black tea saw 14% growth. Some shoppers have switched from standard to decaffeinated; a movement worth almost £600k.” We have seen the tea manufacturers like Yorkshire Tea fighting that trend with their ranges of biscuit and jam & toast flavoured tea. And PG Tips who has launched a trio of functional teas. 

There will be other sectors that will evolve and change due to consumer trends. Tourism and travel will need to rethink what they will do to claw back consumers, rebuild their confidence, or simply stay at the forefront of their mind during a complex period. So, it is important to keep an eye on this sector.


There will no doubt be huge advances within the technology space with more elderly people online than ever before and 10% of the world’s population being over 65. Brands will be looking to penetrate this market. For example, ZVOX Audio is the first audio brand to design marketed headphones acoustically designed for people over the age of 50.


The pandemic has also accelerated demand for sustainability. 42% of consumers consider it a lot more important for brands to behave in sustainable ways. And we have seen brands like Smol, an eco-friendly laundry goods subscription service, or Cheeky Panda who produce toilet rolls, kitchen rolls, baby wipes and pocket tissues sustainably using bamboo more and more.  


In a recent ALF sales and marketing survey, 66% of respondents said they have approached brands that typically were not on their radar. As we live in an economy that constantly evolves, we will see some products and technologies that belong to brands that will become obsolete. Some will just be fads and be with us for a short period, and some for our lifetime. To keep an eye on these changes, monitoring and analysing our macro and micro-environments should be vital when we are looking for new opportunities.