Thought Leadership

The supermarket is the new Brexit battleground

Our Brexit vote defines how we shop, opening up a whole new category of buyer persona for marketers to explore, creating opportunities to reach out and connect in these most uncertain of times

Austen Donnellan, Bray Leino

New Business Director


The Brexit saga has wrought unprecedented chaos on our government and foddered the papers with what seems like a new drama every day. With all this ado it’s easy to forget just how insidious the issue is. Beneath the headline disorder, beyond the frontline politics, Brexit encroaches on our day-to-day public and personal lives. It’s in our supermarket aisles, it’s at the butcher’s, in online food shops, it’s part of that veg box you get delivered.

Every year, Bray Leino commissions a large-scale report on the nation’s shopping habits. The 2019 report findings uncover, amongst other things, an acceleration in the decline of dairy, a consumer cry against plastic packaging, and the plateauing of the vegan trend. It also reveals that our position on Brexit affects how and what we buy.

Remain voters are significantly more likely to believe that Brexit will cause supermarket prices to increase. Remainers are also more likely to believe that both the choice and quality of goods will decrease, while Leavers tend to feel that prices and standards will stay the same.

With EU food quality regulations potentially out of the window and possible meat imports from the likes of the US, it’s no surprise that consumers have reservations around animal welfare standards. Predictably, it’s Remainers who are significantly more likely to believe these standards will decrease, alongside general food safety standards. In all three years of our report, animal welfare standards have been the primary buying concern for UK shoppers, so this is no moot point, signalling opportunities for small-scale producers to strike while the iron’s hot.

Leavers might not be so quick to expect the worst, but they don’t rule out negative impacts of Brexit. Instead, they’re significantly more likely to feel any eventual sacrifices or negatives, for example increased prices and a reduction in choice, animal welfare and food regulations, are worth accepting.

2017 and 2018’s hot topic of Britishness remains of interest, particularly for Leave voters. Still, if concerns around animal welfare ring true, we may see another move towards Britishness post-Brexit, whenever that might be. So far, Morrisons has made the biggest commitment to locally produced meat, a move made easier because the supermarket deals directly with farmers rather than buying from intermediaries. Will other supermarkets adapt their buying models accordingly?

Amidst all the Brexit chaos, the report indicates that there are real opportunities for marketers, particularly around Britishness and animal welfare. There’s also significant concern around the quality of goods post-Brexit, and working to allay these fears could pay off, creating certainty in uncertain times.


Visit Bray Leino’s showcase to download and read the full report.

Guest Author

Austen Donnellan, Bray Leino

New Business Director,


Austen leads Bray Leino’s business development operation, identifying, targeting and partnering with new B2B and B2C clients across sectors such as food and drink, healthcare and technology. With over two decades’ experience developing through the line consumer campaigns for high profile clients, Austen’s specialist knowledge spans TV led advertising campaigns, retailer activations, digital and social media campaigns, communications planning, branded content, direct marketing, evaluation tools, R&D and investment planning.

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FMCG Retail