Holly Shackleton, Editor of Speciality Fine Food Magazine and media partner of IFE 2019, discusses the rise in consumer demand for premium products and how the definition of ‘premium’ has evolved in recent years….

Premium products have always been at the top of the pecking order in the fine food industry. Desirable alternatives to everyday products; aspirational treats enjoyed at special occasions in place of more humdrum offerings.

At the end of the twentieth century, the term 'premium' was loosely defined when it came to food and drink products. There was a hypothetical tick list of notable requirements: a sophisticated colour scheme of dark blues, greens and golds; script fonts; use of words like 'finest', 'superior' and 'classic'; luxurious twists and inclusions of exotic and expensive ingredients.

Today, the definition is a little more blurred. As consumers are consciously becoming more engaged with the story behind their food, demanding information about its origin and – in the speciality sector at least – turning their back on products which draw a veil over their social, ethical and environmental impact, they're looking for more than attractive packaging and premium-sounding ingredients.

Below, a few talking points in the premium sphere right now:

The value of ethics

We've all seen the abundance of ethics-driven advertising and product promotion, and items with Fairtrade and organic credentials have long held a higher price tag than mainstream ones. As education about the importance of being socially and environmentally-conscious – and stories about the communities and habitats which benefit from such endeavours – is spread increasingly wider, consumers are willing to pay for products which help rather than harm our planet.

Paying for provenance

The value of British provenance has risen in recent years, with an emphasis on national pride and the recognition of the quality of traditional fare from our shores becoming wider-spread. UK shoppers see locally-produced products as higher-value than flown-in alternatives, and if a product's packaging paints a picture – if the face of John the farmer is included, or the story behind the item – all the better. It all comes down to traceability and clarity; shoppers are willing to pay a premium for food and drink they believe they can trust.

Luxury levels up

Luxurious products will always command a higher perceived value, but such items aren't taken at face value any more. The classic dinner party trio of smoked salmon and blinis with Champagne has evolved to – as in restaurants – include details of county or even farm of origin, if local. Smoked salmon products now proudly proclaim their Scottish heritage; blinis are homemade; Champagne is gradually being usurped by English sparkling wine by the likes of Nyetimber and Ridgeview, as their quality and reputation rivals their Continental counterparts more than ever before.

Invest in experience

Retailers and brands alike are seeing the value in the consumer experience. A food or drink item which is packaged to look and feel like a gift, a shop which allows the customer to escape everyday life and enter another world, or simply enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff bringing the essence of a brand straight to the consumer – all create a premium experience and attract repeat custom.

To find out more about premium food & drink trends shaping the industry, register for free to attend IFE 2019 and meet with some of the leading brands tapping into this movement.