Finance Consumer Meat-free sausage rolls and alcohol-free gin: Shoppers select their favourite products of year

Meat-free sausage rolls and alcohol-free gin: Shoppers select their favourite products of year

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While the world has been distracted by the coronavirus pandemic, consumers have been quietly shifting their shopping habits – and it’s leaning towards products that aren’t quite what they seem.

Alcohol-free spirits and ‘fake’ meat were among the top products voted by Aussie shoppers this year.

The results, released on Thursday, showed a trend towards healthier, plant-based products, with eight out of 29 winners coming from the ‘vegetarian/vegan’ and ‘health food’ categories.

Self care was also a clear priority for shoppers during this pandemic year, with pharmacy and skincare products also scooping eight awards.

Coles beat out rival Woolworths, with products from Coles’ shelves winning 11 awards across the bakery, coffee, body care and dessert categories.

More than 9000 shoppers across the nation cast votes for their favourite new items in Australia’s 12th annual Product of the Year Awards (POY), rating a selection of products using six key criteria: Relevance, uniqueness, excitement, likability, distinctiveness and innovation.

Heading into 2021, consumers will be more likely to purchase products that Australian made (75 per cent) and convenient for them (74 per cent), the Nielsen-conducted poll found.

Panic-buying bites

From toilet paper panic-buying to supermarket shelves stripped of staples including pasta, flour, and canned goods, the pandemic caused some significant disruptions in our purchasing habits.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of shoppers said they could not purchase the products they wanted or needed due to panic-buying, and older Australians were particularly affected by this, the poll showed.

Toilet paper shelves were stripped bare in the early days of the pandemic. Photo: AAP

As a result, many shoppers were forced to branch out and try new products and brands, with nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of those surveyed purchasing something they were previously unfamiliar with.

The experience of trying something new wasn’t always a positive one, though, with only one in five (21 per cent) of those shoppers saying they would purchase the product again.

Coles v Woolworths

Coles products dominated the awards, scooping a record 11 out of 29 categories.

Coles’ winning items included its own-brand finest traditional recipe croissants, graze lamb loin chops, and LPO’s rewind Age Defence Night Cream.

But Woolworths didn’t go home empty handed, taking out the ‘consumer favour’ gong thanks to shoppers labelling it as the best retailer for a range of attributes including ‘cleanliness,’ ‘best/widest range of fresh produce’ and having the ‘best online shopping experience’.

Shoppers were mostly positive about the big two supermarkets’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with 70 per cent of those surveyed claiming Woolworths and Coles showcased the best management across the board.

Meat-free snags and alcohol-free gin

You don’t have to be vegan or teetotal to enjoy a meat-free meal or an alcohol-free tipple, and the POY results revealed a growing appetite for these types of products.

Lyre’s alcohol-free spirits were a winner. Photo: Lyre

Recent research by Roy Morgan shows that nearly 2.5 million Australians have moved to a vegetarian diet, or are close to doing so,

Convenience chain 7-Eleven cashed in on the trend with its winning ‘no sausage roll’, while v2’s plant-based mince also proved a meat-free favourite.

“This is the first time in our Product of the Year Awards history that we’ve had this many meat-alternative and vegan products participate and successfully win an award, especially from surprising new brands such as 7-Eleven and v2 foods,” Product of the Year director Sarah Connelly said.

Non-alcohol booze was also on the menu, with Lyre’s alcohol-free spirit range, which includes the ‘dry London spirit’ gin alternative, also taking out a gong.

Nescafe’s range of plant-based lattes, including oat milk and coconut versions, got the tick of approval from coffee drinkers, as did Daley St’s Nespresso-compatible coffee pods.

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