It’s back to the future as consumers shun the big shop

Shoppers are turning their backs on the big shop and reverting to the buying habits of their grandparents.

A Co-operative Food report ‘Back to the Future’ launched today (17 July) compares and contrasts food shopping in 2015 with the mid-sixties and shows that less than half (48 per cent) of today’s consumer’s now go shopping just once a week.

The Co-op’s Convenience Retailing highlights:

· Millions are stepping back to the way consumers used to shop for food in the 60s before the advent of huge supermarkets and fridges, freezers and microwaves

· The modern trend of shunning the big shop in favour of buying smaller amounts locally reflects exactly what was happening 50 years ago.

· Almost half of shoppers* now no longer do a big weekly shop, while more than a third have adopted a ‘grazing’ shopping mentality

Shopping baskets in 2015** compared to 1965 show a stark difference in diet and tastes, with more convenience food now compared to more basic ingredients which were used to make the foods from scratch. In 1965 the average basket would have contained butter, meat, milk, bread, sugar, flour, eggs as well as lard, suet and yeast. In 2015 consumers are more likely to have confectionary, yogurts and desserts, crisps and snacks, in store bakery products, bananas and energy drinks.

The amount consumers spend in proportion to their income has also fallen sharply. According to the ONS***, today the average weekly expenditure is £517.30 with food and non-alcoholic drinks accounting for 11 percent of this expenditure at an average of £58.80. In 1965****, families spent 23 percent of their income on food.

In the mid-sixties there were still individual butchers and greengrocers, many operated by the Co-op, and so grocery stores concentrated on selling food in packets and tins. Another big difference was there was very little alcohol sold because drink consumed at home was generally purchased at standalone off licences

After the Second World War, the Co-op was the first to introduce the American idea of serving yourself but it was mid-1965 before the majority of its stores had been converted from the old fashioned counter service.

The report includes a plan of how a Co-op food store would have been laid out in the mid 1960’s, highlighting how many innovations introduced back then are still recognisable to 21st century consumers.

Steve Murrells, Chief Executive, Retail said: “After the war the Co-op pioneered relatively small self-service shops and we are again aiming to be the leading convenience operator in the UK.

“Our report shows what a typical newly-converted store would have looked like and, while today there is far more emphasis on fresh produce, many aspects of the layout are still familiar.

“In half a century much has changed while in many other ways little has altered. Many of the staples found in people’s shopping baskets in the 1960s remain, yet, there are new additions which reflect changing lifestyles and modern shopping habits.”

Top ten basket items



2015 1965



1 milk 1 milk

2 bread 2 meat, bacon & hams

3 confectionery 3 butter

4 newspapers 4 bread

5 yogurts and desserts 5 sugar

6 soft drinks 6 canned food

7 tinned, package groceries 7 tea

8 fresh vegetables 8 soft drinks

9 crisps & snacks 9 flour

10 in-store bakery 10 eggs

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