Manufacturers should follow Tesco’s lead and focus on growing demand for single-portion meals, according to shopper management specialist Bridgethorne.

Tesco’s decision to significantly expand its range of single-portion foods to meet the needs of consumers who live and eat alone may demonstrate the start of an industry focus away from families towards the single diner.

Bridgethorne believes that Tesco’s move to increase its single-serve range by nearly 40% this year, including the addition of single beef burgers and steak fillets and hand-sized packets of new potatoes and broccoli, demonstrates recognition of an increasing demographic of single diners.

Just over one third of UK households now having only one person living in them. The shift is particularly evident among 45 to 64-year-olds, with many living alone because of declining marriage rates and divorce.

According to Bridgethorne, the number of single-person households is projected to increase to 10.9m in 2031, by which point it could outnumber all other housing groups.

“Brands and own label suppliers seem to be beginning to recognise that the changing make-up of British society is something they need to factor into their planning,” said Bridgethorne’s joint managing director, John Nevens.

“Shoppers obviously behave differently according to their circumstances. Somebody living on their own will not necessarily want to buy the same product in the same quantities as others and this will have an impact on the format and diversity of how products are presented, from packaging to portion size.

“If manufacturers and retailers remain relentlessly focused on the family unit they could be turning their backs on category growth by ignoring the needs of people who don’t fit into the standard family model.”

Suppliers, Nevens adds, need to be able to demonstrate how they can make their category work for all shoppers, including those who live alone. Doing so will help them cement a more positive working relationship with the large retailers.

In this sense, internal and retailer range reviews to address any immediate shortfalls in range balance and effective category vision development could be critical. Category vision development, underpinned by consumer and shopper research and data driven insights, could help manufacturers understand the long term opportunities and growth initiatives that societal changes will present both retailers and themselves.

If manufacturers can identify short and long term quantified strategic opportunities for the category and the brand, Bridgethorne believes this will increase expertise and multi-dimensional levels of influence leading to brand growth ahead of the category.