As a UK fruit business, J.O. Sims have seen imports of dates grow by over 300% over the last 10 years and have announced two new supply sources in the last three months alone, in order to keep up with demand. We have explored some of the possible reasons behind the incredible growth in this market.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar sees an annual surge in demand for dates. Fasting takes place from sunrise to sunset, often broken with dates, due to spiritual significance. This year, Ramadan is observed between 13th April and 12th May, with retailers taking the opportunity to offer a wide selection of date products at this time.
80% of date shoppers are over the age of 45, with the majority of these over 65 (Kantar 52/w/e 27th Dec ’20). Lottie Nicholls, National Account Manager at J.O. Sims, believes this is associated with bygone Christmas traditions. The festive customs are linked back to a time where dates were enjoyed as a preserve of wealthy nobility, eventually becoming a luxury indulgence food, experienced over the Christmas period.
For J.O. Sims, the most thought-provoking rise in date purchases has been seen in the 28-34 age group, who have increased their spending by 13% (Kantar 52/w/e 27th Dec ’20). Lottie Nicholls has highlighted some key trends that we believe have contributed to this rise in consumption:
- Retailers have listened to the ‘on the go’ demands from younger customers, offering smaller snack packs of dates.
- There has been an increased awareness of refined sugar, and the alternatives available for baking and children’s snacks.
- With a larger number of people recognising the link between food and fitness, and the rise in competitive sports, there has been an increase in demand of those looking for a quick energy fix to ensure peak performance.
The increasing popularity of dates looks set to continue. Food retailers should prepare for this continued growth and understand the increasing seasonal demands of our multi-cultural nation.
When developing new food products, dates are an obvious ingredient choice for many reasons. It is a relatively low cost, clean label, naturally sweet, refuelling ingredient; creating endless permissibly indulgent product possibilities.
Why not try this delicious recipe for chocolate peanut butter dates!
Take a look at more Medjool date recipes here: bit.ly/medjoolcookbook