4 May 2022 • 5 min

Juliette Kuiken

Conscious Consumer Brands from the UK: Opportunities for Buyers in the Netherlands and Across Europe

By Juliette Kuiken, Head of Trade, Food & Drink, The Netherlands

Whether it be the Cornish pasty, scones, cheddar or Scotch whisky, what consumers know as British food is rooted in heritage and tradition. Like in other markets, however, a new generation of food manufacturers is focusing on new concepts, free from animal ingredients and/or providing a healthier choice.

In the spirit of creating the future by leading it, entrepreneurs from across the UK have created successful brands focusing on the demand for vegan choice, new flavour experiences and more sustainable supply chains; brands they are now ready to share with the world.

One topic that emerged during COP26 in Glasgow last year, is the need to improve our global food systems since they make a significant contribution to climate change. Last month, 17 innovative UK brands journeyed across the North Sea to showcase their vision of sustainability with Dutch consumers in the heart of Amsterdam.

But why the Netherlands?

Six & Sons

The Netherlands is an important market for UK companies who want to make their first steps to international growth: it is a close neighbour across the North Sea, where English is spoken widely, and businesses are open to international business. It is the UK’s fourth market for food & drink exports, worth £700m in the first half of 2021.

Apart from adding to the variety of retail offering, the focus on sustainable products is in line with consumer demand and a growing trend in the Netherlands and across European markets. In 2020, nearly 6 out of 10 Dutch consumers indicated valuing brands which make a positive contribution to society, climate or the world. Increasingly, Dutch consumers are paying attention to the sustainability of products they purchase, a sentiment held in many European markets.

Stach Schaberg, the owner of STACH, a ‘modern Dutch cornerstore’ that is an ambassador for healthy, tasty food, said in an interview:

We are always looking for new product concepts for our stores, products that add something to our offering. The products need to have the right look and feel and need to match our target audience. There is strong demand for tasty and nutritious products for at home and on-the-go, as well as vegetarian and vegan options.

The younger generation of British food and drink manufacturers wants to be different and focus on innovative concepts. They are very active in vegan and gluten free product development and are also adding new concepts to the (soft) drinks shelves. I like to visit shops and markets in London for inspiration.

There is an appetite for sustainability

As focus increases on sustainability amongst consumers around the world, it is a natural step for sustainable UK brands to look to grow abroad. Consumer trends, such as veganism, have been growing in the UK for years and are now also more and more visible in the Netherlands. However, with the retail and trade fair environment in the Netherlands and across Europe still recovering from Covid-19 restrictions, this pop-up created an opportunity for local buyers, consumers and influencers to discover new, sustainable UK brands without having to travel.

These sustainable brands create awareness around the use of single-use plastics, in line with the growing concerns of how plastics end up in our environment and in our bodies. A YouGov report from 2019 states that 82% of British consumers actively want to contribute to the reduction in plastic waste. While just last month, an Ipsos report reflected this same trend in the Netherlands: almost 75% of Dutch consumers want a ban on single-use plastics. One of the brands, ‘Oh My Gum’, presents a plastic-free chewing gum, while brands Huski and Cupple provide alternatives to single use cups and bottles.

Chris Barton, the UK’s Trade Commissioner for Europe, enthusiastic to say about the project:

This is a fantastic initiative that promotes brilliant British products and supports sustainability, helping us all to enjoy world-class goods while protecting the environment. It is also a great demonstration of the close connections between British and Dutch citizens, in terms of business, taste and values.”

Chris Barton

If you are a Dutch buyer, interested in sustainable food and drink brands from the UK, get in touch with me: Juliette.Kuiken@fcdo.gov.uk. You can also view current sustainable opportunities here on our events page.

Interested in the innovative brands that participated? Here are the UK brands that were involved:

Abakus Foods, Caleno Drinks, Cupple, Divine Chocolate, London Nootropics, Mydflower, Neema Food, Oh My Gum, Pri’s Pudding, Prodigy Snacks, Stroodles, Coco Caravan, Karma Bites, Sugavida, Ohelo, Huski Home and nkd.