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Snack bars innovation: what’s now and what’s next

Posted By Mintel, Wednesday 13 June 2018
Updated: Tuesday 12 June 2018

The snack bar category in recent years has catered for many different eating occasions. These range from indulgent and comforting snacks to functional, portable and healthy nutrition products, with many blurred variants in between. And as consumers develop a more holistic approach to health, natural, vegan and free-from formulations have continued to grow in popularity.

Vegan pea protein in the spotlight

As the buzz around plant-based diets grows, protein bar brands need to cater to a wider range of dietary preferences. Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and health imperatives that support diets high in plant-based foods. This has particularly impacted the snack bar category, with global launches of vegan snack bars doubling over the past five years, from 11% of all snack bar launches in 2013 to 20% in 2017, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database. Leading markets for launches of vegan snack bars are predominantly in Europe, notably Germany, where a staggering 43% of snack bars launched in 2017 were vegan. However, soy protein (the leading source of plant protein) is considered a divisive ingredient. Often genetically modified, it’s avoided by as many as 17% of UK consumers. As a result, snack bar brands will increasingly need to review how to formulate products that are both vegan-friendly and clean label. Pea protein is emerging as a hero alternative to soy, with brands now visibly calling out the use of pea protein on packaging.


PaPicante Mediterranean Pea Protein Bar with Tomato, Basil and Pine Nuts, Germany

Presence of 'pea protein crisps' given prominence on front of pack in this savoury snack bar from Germany.



inSpiral Visionary Products Organic Banana Go-Go Protein Clusters with Live Cultures, UK

The plant-based, gluten-free raw product is said to provide one portion of five recommended fruits and vegetables a day. It contains banana rolled in cashew nuts, crunchy buckwheat, pumpkin seeds, almonds, figs, pea and rice protein, and one billion of bacteria each pack.



Anything goes: New launches continue to redefine the snack bar

Snack bar formats have evolved and brands are looking beyond bars to provide consumers with portion control, shareability and fun. Demonstrating what an established option this format has become, balls and bites accounted for 7% of all global snack bar launches over 2017, more than doubling over the past three years. 

Savoury flavours have emerged in traditionally sweet categories over the past few years. Salty versions of sweet flavours, such as salted caramel or 'sweet and salty' popcorn, have become mainstream, overshadowing overly sweet flavours and possibly enabling greater consumption. Launches of 'sweet and salty' snack bars tripled over the three years to 2017. Moving further along the sweet-savoury continuum, the snack bar category has also seen launches of fruit and vegetable combinations.


Lubs Pepper & Spinach with Chilli Veggie Bar, Germany

An organic vegetable bar with red pepper, spinach and cayenne pepper. This vegan product is free from gluten and added sugar.

 MaXsport Raw Juicer Beetroot and Currant Bar, Germany

Mixing vegetables and fruit, this vegan snack is high in fibre and contains no added sugar.



Meal replacement snack bars aren’t just for dieters

Time is a precious commodity and consumers are hungry for products that help them streamline every moment of their lives. Meal replacement products allow to deal with the time-consuming tasks of meal-planning, food shopping and eating more efficiently. While some consumers receive enormous pleasure from their eating experiences, not everyone is a foodie, and some are too busy to be foodies all the time.

Snack bars are experimenting with non-traditional ingredients including cheese, meat, eggs and even insects, and this trend shows no sign of abating. Dairy ingredients and yogurt brands have been appearing in the snack bar category as brands look to offer consumers a more convenient way to snack on dairy products. 


Clio Strawberry Greek Yogurt Bar Enrobed in Chocolate, USA

A unique new snack bar that offers yogurt consumers true on-the-go snacking convenience. Made from pressed Greek yogurt and enrobed in chocolate, these bars need to be refrigerated, but can be consumed with just one hand and no spoon.



Salad Shots Bar Choco Balsamic Snack Bar, USA

This natural product is said to combine the goodness of a salad with the convenience of a bar, and is infused with superfoods and antioxidants. It’s made with dark chocolate, cranberries, goji berries, chia seeds, kale, spinach, brown rice, quinoa, almonds, walnuts and pecans.


 You Beef Bar with Apple and Banana, Switzerland

This low fat, high in protein bar is described as a dried beef preparation made from meat pieces with apples, bananas and honey.


Cathedral City Lighter Mature Cheese Snack Bar, UK

This 30g bar targets consumers who enjoy snacking on cheese, but are looking for a convenient format for on-the-go snacking.



Smooth-textured layers add healthy indulgence to snack bars

Snack bar brands are embracing nut butters, the spread-turned-snack food that has experienced growth in popularity over the past year. However, textural variety is not something that has been well explored yet, with only a few brands keeping the nut butter as a separate textural element, rather than mixing it into the bar itself. By doing so, for instance through sandwiched layers or fillings, they go beyond flavour and use soft, creamy textures to add appetite appeal.


Kashi GoLean Plant Power Honey Pecan Baklava Plant Powered Bars, USA

Playing with textures, this bar has a smooth honey, cashew and sunflower seed butter layer on top of crunchy nuts, seeds and chewy wholegrains.




Broderick's Crunchy Slam Dunk Peanut Chunk Bar, Ireland

This Belgian chocolate and rice crispies bar is covered with a layer of smooth peanut butter bar and chocolate.



About Mintel

Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency. For over 40 years, Mintel's expert analysis of the highest quality data and market research has directly impacted on client success. With offices in London, Chicago, Belfast, Düsseldorf, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Munich, New York, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand.

For more information on Mintel, please visit Follow Mintel on Twitter: or join the Mintel LinkedIn community:

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Irish B2B Digital Marketing Survey 2018

Posted By The Marketing Institute and Squaredot, Wednesday 6 June 2018

B2B Digital Marketing Survey

The Marketing Institute and Irish B2B digital agency Squaredot have partnered to bring you the B2B Digital Marketing Survey, which sheds light on the state of B2B Digital Marketing in Ireland.

We thank everyone who took part and we are delighted to share the key findings of the survey.


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Looking to develop your skillset? Try talent stacking

Posted By Steven Roberts, Head of Marketing at Griffith College , Wednesday 6 June 2018
Updated: Tuesday 5 June 2018

talent stacking

We’re often told there is one way of excelling in our careers – a focused approach on developing expertise in a particular subject area. Over time, this benefits from the compound effect. Step by step we gradually improve, to the point where a form of mastery is achieved in our chosen subject.

This makes sense. We all know of the surgeon, the legal expert, the sportsperson or musician who has achieved an eminent career by taking such an approach. 
However, there is another route marketers can take, which can be equally productive – combining or ‘stacking’ a range of talents in a unique way.

Author, cartoonist and entrepreneur Scott Adams talks about the benefits of talent stacking in his book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

He argues persuasively that by combining a range of complementary skills together, you can develop a unique professional skillset. In his case, business nous via an MBA, good drawing and communication skills, amongst others. He readily admits that he is standout at none of these, but within the top 20% for each.

The idea of a talent stack is that you can combine ordinary skills until you have enough of the right kind to be extraordinary. Scott Adams

The key here is complementarity – for example, for marketers it could be matching strategic skills with a deep understanding of branding. Combining consumer behaviour and psychology with advertising, or melding aspects of data, technology and digital marketing.

The World Economic Forum states that the ‘ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements, job content and the aggregate effect on employment is increasingly critical for businesses, governments and individuals’.

In an economy where jobs are emerging and becoming obsolete with increasing rapidity, having a range of skills and talents provides flexibility. The opportunity to move from one complementary area to another. To switch between sectors.

Knowledge workers… will have to learn to stay young and mentally alive during a fifty-year working life. Peter Drucker.

This approach has links with the synthesizing mind, popularised by Howard Gardner and others. Here you take skillsets in diverse areas and provide value through the novel and unique insights this offers. 

Robert Greene, in his book Mastery, argues that the key to success is to build knowledge and skills and combine them in an interesting way. To be an expert generalist allows you to make connections that your peers will miss due to a siloed view of the world.

Beatles guitarist George Harrison was a master at combining aspects of the guitar in a unique way. Having first built a comprehensive knowledge of current guitar styles through The Beatles’ early years as a cover band, his explorations lead him to the sitar. The instrument, then relatively unknown in western music, provided standout elements in tracks such as Norwegian Wood. Not content to stop there, Harrison learned to master slide guitar, a sound that would eventually become his signature on classics such as Something and My Sweet Lord.

Stepping back from these dizzying heights, how can we build a similar approach into our own careers? 

There are a few key steps to take. Firstly, look at your core competencies. Are there complementary areas you could develop knowledge in? Are there aspects where you have moderate knowledge, but with an investment of time could develop and broaden these skills to provide added value?

Next, set a list of goals and identify the top three priorities within these. Then clearly map out a plan and process that will allow you to chip away at them on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Personal development coaches such as Brian Tracy, Pat Divilly and others suggest identifying a portion of each day which you set aside just for this purpose, be it the 2% rule or the golden hour. The core purpose is to give you time for the deep work and focus required to build your skillset effectively.

If you haven’t already started, the next best time to begin is right now. Use the compound effect, take daily steps towards your goals. You’ll be surprised at just how effective this approach can be.

About the author

Steven Roberts is head of marketing for Griffith College and a certified data protection officer. Steven has over 15 years’ experience working in management, senior marketing and strategy roles in the education, heritage and tourism sectors.


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Juices, smoothies and nectars: trends and innovation

Posted By Mintel, Tuesday 22 May 2018

What are the trends driving juices and smoothies innovation? Here, Julia Buech, Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Analyst, takes a look at how brands can keep up with consumers’ ever-changing preferences and demands.

Clean label builds momentum

Mintel's 2018 food and drink Trend ‘Full Disclosure’ describes how today's consumers require complete and total transparency from companies about production processes and ingredients. The growing focus on clean labels extends to demand for more transparency around ingredients, including a clear breakdown on labels between naturally occurring fruit sugars and added sugars.

As consumers increasingly question the quality of their food, they are attracted by the perceived higher nutritional value of 'cold-pressed' juices. Indeed, interest in natural, minimally processed and nutrient-dense products is fuelling innovation around cold-pressed juices which are designed to provide consumers with the benefits of raw ingredients. 51% of Italian consumers aged 16-24 claim to have drunk cold-pressed fruit juice/smoothies, followed by 44% of Polish and 34% of Spanish consumers of the same age.

Looking at innovation, the global share of cold-pressed juice introductions in total launches tripled over the course of three years, reaching 6% in the 12 months leading to November 2017. 

Consumers seek transparency about sugars

Sugar remains a key concern for the juice and juice drink category. Upcoming new regulations in the US mean consumers will begin to see the amount of added sugar in products listed on the nutritional fact panel. The new label could have a significant impact on the 'clean label' appeal of 100% juice versus juice drinks, as it is likely to be perceived as more natural. While 100% fruit juice is also exempt from the upcoming soft drinks sugar levy in the UK, there is still a need for brands to be clearer on labelling, with six in 10 UK consumers finding the terminology used around sugars in juice/juice drinks confusing.

Rise of snack drinks

With consumers increasingly looking to fit in meals around their hectic lifestyles, innovation is focusing on the development of convenient, yet nutrient-rich offerings. Moreover, as described in the Mintel Trend ‘Power to the Plants’, aspirations for healthier and cleaner lifestyles are motivating consumers to include more vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains into their diets. As a result, the market is witnessing the rise of a new generation of smoothies which draw on plant-based, protein-rich food ingredients in order to upgrade to 'healthy snack' status. Demand for juice drinks with high-protein plant ingredients is driven by the younger generation and almost a third of 16-24 year old consumers in Spain and Italy, and a quarter in Germany show interest in such concepts. 

Seeds are the star ingredients in innovation

Nutrient-dense 'superfood' ingredients such as seeds, grains and nuts help transform a regular juice or smoothie into a more filling, naturally functional snack. Beyond health and flavour, such ingredients lend juice drinks an interesting texture. As described in Mintel's 2018 food and drink Trend ‘New Sensations’, texture is the latest tool to engage consumers' senses and deliver share-worthy experiences. Seeds in particular have stepped into the limelight in recent years, celebrated as nutritional powerhouses that are rich in protein and healthy fats. Chia seeds have been shining as front-label "star ingredients" in new launches in Europe, while basil seeds are the most common types used in South East Asia, where they are commonly used for thickening and health purposes. 

Snack drinks boost plant protein factor with non-dairy milk

The current focus on plant-based protein has also opened the ground for innovation around smoothies enriched with non-dairy milk alternatives. This has seen a strong rise in popularity over the past few years, fuelled by a combination of health, ethical and taste reasons. While still niche, non-dairy milks – in particular coconut milk - have made their way into the smoothie sector, tapping into the plant-based protein trend while also adding to the richness of flavour. 

Shot-sized health-boosting juice launches take off

Consumers are increasingly interested in naturally-functional food and drinks. Tapping into this trend, health-promoting juice shots provide a quick, natural boost of nutrition in small to-go bottles. Using concentrated doses of fruits, vegetables, plant extracts and herbs, juice shots are designed as a preventive measure to boost consumers’ overall wellbeing, but can also address specific health issues. These include boosting energy levels, supporting the immune system and digestive health, curing hangovers and relieving flu symptoms. Often combined with lemon juice, ginger is by far the leading ingredient in juice shot innovation. Dubbed a ‘wonder plant’, ginger has found its way into the diets of health-conscious individuals around the world, as it reportedly helps relieve pain and muscle soreness, lowers blood pressure and boosts the immune system.

Woolworths Food Freshly Pressed 100% Nectarine Juice, South Africa: This juice is made using locally grown nectarines, which are pressed to capture their flavour in a bottle, with nothing else added. It was available only for a limited-time during nectarine season, highlighting the freshness of the product.


Friya Rose Blossom & Sour Cherry Superfood Drink with Basil Seeds, Germany:

Basil seeds have been traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and are now starting to get noticed in the West. This rose blossom and sour cherry drink with basil seeds is claimed to curb appetite and is recommended to be enjoyed ice cold.



James White, Organic Xtra Intense & Hot Ginger Shot with Chill, Denmark:

This ‘wake-me-up’ shot with pressed organic ginger and apple juice has a chili kick that makes it extra hot, for a quick energy boost.



Coldpress Cold Pressed Very Berry Almond Drink, UK:

Nuts are still under-represented as ingredients in snack drinks, with brands just starting to explore a wider range of types. This vegetarian product comprises almond, banana, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry, elderberry and pear and is a natural source of vitamins C and E and antioxidants.



 Rossmann Mamas Babydream Nursing Juice with Red Fruits, Germany:

Targeting pregnant and nursing mothers, this juice is formulated with folic acid for womb growth, iron for normal blood formation, and iodine for hormone production and thyroid function.



President's Choice Raspberry Blueberry Smoothie, Canada:

A blend of fruit purées, concentrated fruit juices, and quinoa powder. Quinoa has become the go-to ancient grain for modern snack juice brands, but opportunities exist to include other on-trend ancient grains including amaranth, teff, sorghum, spelt and buckwheat. 



Yumberry Re:Me Organic Yumberry Fermented Drink, China:

Made with organic yumberry juice, the product claims to contain 20 amino acids, is very low in sugar, and is free from additives. Yeast is added during production, and the juice is then allowed to ferment, boasting many digestive health benefits.




Miel Nàtura Honey and Tulsi Drink, India:

This Indian health drink is made with natural Myanmar honey, hand picked from the deep forests of North Myanmar, and blended with the juice of the natural Tulsi plant. Tulsi is known for its health benefits and has strong antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties.



Luli Tonix Black Magic Charcoal Lemonade, US:

Not your traditional lemonade - it contains water, organic lemon juice and peel, activated charcoal, organic maple syrup and Himalayan salt. 




Beauty & Go Skin Brilliance Bioactive Beauty Drink, UK:

This beauty drink is a skin-protecting multivitamin fruit juice enriched with antioxidants, collagen and hyaluronic acid, and sweetened with stevia. It is rich in vitamin C which contributes to normal collagen formation and protects cells from oxidative stress. 



About Mintel

Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency. For over 40 years, Mintel's expert analysis of the highest quality data and market research has directly impacted on client success. With offices in London, Chicago, Belfast, Düsseldorf, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Munich, New York, São Paulo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, and Toronto, Mintel has forged a unique reputation as a world-renowned business brand.

For more information on Mintel, please visit Follow Mintel on Twitter: or join the Mintel LinkedIn community:

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The Consumer Market Monitor - Q1 2018

Posted By The Marketing Institute & UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, Monday 21 May 2018
Updated: Friday 18 May 2018

consumer market monitor Q1 2018Despite the rebound in Irish consumer spending, professional and technical services still lag 13% behind 2007 peak


- Spending on services up by 4% in 2017 and again in Q1 2018

- Technical services which includes architecture and engineering firms still 13% below peak in 2007


read report


Dublin, May 21, 2018: The latest Consumer Market Monitor (CMM), published today by the Marketing Institute of Ireland and UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, has shown that by the end of 2017, the services index was up by 15% over the 2007 peak, with most service sub-sectors recording growth for the past year. The only exception is professional and technical services,   including architecture and engineering, which are still 13% lower than the last peak in 2007.

Professional services showed the most dramatic boom and bust cycle. In particular, architecture and engineering firms, which were inextricably tied to the fortunes of construction, suffered significantly in the economic downturn. And while this sub-sector has been growing back steadily in recent years, it is still 13% lower than the peak level of 2007. In spite of an estimated 19,000 new homes built in Ireland last year, house building in Ireland is still among the lowest in Europe, and this has impacted the growth of this sub-sector.” said Professor Mary Lambkin of UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, author of the report. 

Sales of residential properties strengthened in 2017 up 7% to 51,688, the highest level since the recession. Transactions are up by a further 5% in the first months of 2018, suggesting a final figure of about 55,000 for the year. There has also been an increase in the number of new homes being built, an estimated 19,000 were built last year, and that is expected to increase to 21,000 in 2018.

“All of the economic fundamentals in the Irish economy remain strong with continuing growth in employment and modest wage increases being the primary drivers of growth. The services sector, which covers a range of businesses from banks to hotels, is responsible for the employment of hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland and it is very encouraging to see strong growth within the sector, up 15% from the peak in 2007.” said Tom Trainor, Chief Executive of the Marketing Institute of Ireland.



The services sector recovered more quickly from the recent recession than the retail sector, showing modest growth from 2011 onwards. The services index overtook the 2007 peak in 2014, and made further gains in 2015 and 2016, up by 5% per annum. By the end of 2017, the services index was up by 15% over the 2007 peak, representing healthy growth.

Growth slowed slightly in 2017, to a rate of 4%, but picked up towards the end of the year. Growth of 8% was experienced in January of this year, but this fell back to 2% in February and March, probably because of the exceptionally bad weather.

Most service sub-sectors have recorded growth for the past year, and again in quarter 1 2018, suggesting a positive picture for the rest of the year. Service sub-sectors grew as follows in 2017: Professional, Scientific and Technical (+11.9%), Administrative Support (+8.5%), Wholesale and Retail (+5.2%), Accommodation and Food Service (+3.2%), Weaker sectors were: Transportation and Storage (+1.6%) and Information and Communication (+1.9%). 

The chart below shows, however, that there has been considerable variation in the recovery paths of different service sectors over the past ten years. Information and communication which include mobile phone and internet services have grown in a straight line upwards and are now 60% higher than a decade ago, although this sector slowed in 2017. 

Accommodation and food services have done next best, growing rapidly from 2014 to 2016, but levelling off a bit since then. This seems surprising in view of the growth in tourism over these years but may reflect capacity constraints in Dublin. However, the 2017 index is 30% up on 2008 which is a strong performance.

Professional services showed the most dramatic boom and bust cycle. This includes such things as architecture and engineering which were tied to the fortunes of construction, as well as advertising, and legal and accounting services, all of which suffered significantly in the economic downturn. This sub-sector has been growing back steadily in recent years but is still 13% lower than the peak level of 2007.


General Summary

Consumer spending is back to levels last seen a decade ago at the height of the boom. Total spending reached €100 billion in 2017, about the same as 2007. Spending has been growing strongly for the past three years and continues to be one of the main drivers of economic growth, along with investment in construction. Consumer spending was up 2.8% last year, while construction up by an even higher rate of 4.2%.

Consumer and investment spending are continuing to grow strongly in 2018 and 2019 with overall domestic demand projected to grow by 4.9% over the period. Personal consumer spending is forecast to grow by 2.9% in 2018 and by 2.5% in 2019.

The main factors supporting growth are population expansion, along with increasing employment. There are now 2.2 million people at work, up 61,300 year-on-year, and up by 344,000 or 19% from the low point in 2012. Growth of 2.4% is forecast for 2018 and 2.0% for 2019 which would bring another 99,000 people into the workforce.

The increasing numbers of people employed is leading to a substantial expansion in the amount of disposable income circulating in the economy. Disposable income has increased by about 5% a year in each of the past three years. In sum, it reached €102 billion in 2017, eclipsing the 2008 peak of €101 billion.  Disposable income is expected to continue growing in 2018 and 2019, at about the same rate of 5% per annum.

Pay increases have also contributed to the rise in disposable income, but by a smaller amount. Pay rates were up by around 2% per annum for the past three years and increases of about 3% are forecast for this year and next. Households across the economic spectrum are now starting to gain from strong employment and wage growth. 

Consumer confidence is also very strong here at present, and significantly higher than in the UK and the rest of Europe. It fell slightly in the second half of 2016 due to worries about Brexit but was back in positive territory throughout 2017 and is remaining steady so far this year.

Retail sales were strong in 2017, up 4.3% for the year in volume terms, and 2% in value. Growth accelerated as the year progressed, to a level of 7% in Q4, suggesting strong momentum into 2018. Vat returns were also very strong, up by 7% in 2017.

The exceptionally bad weather conditions in Q1 of this year dampened spending but despite this, retail sales grew by 4.3% in volume by 2% in value, year-on-year. Prospects of renewed momentum seem positive for the rest of the year. Sales of new cars are one important exception; sales were down by 11% in 2017, for a total of 127,045. This trend is persisting in 2018 with new car sales down -3.9% in the first quarter for a total of 58,402.

In contrast, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of imported second hand cars, up 47% in 2016 and 46% in 2017 for a total of 92,508. Imports are up by a further 8.1% in the first quarter of 2018, suggesting a total of 100,000 for the year, a new record. This reflects the weakening of sterling making imports better value.

Residential property is the sector under most pressure, as is well known. Sales strengthened to 51,688 in 2017, up 7%, the highest rate of sales since the recession. Transactions are up again in the first three months of this year, by about 5%, suggesting a final figure of about 55,000 for the year.


Consumer Confidence

Consumer confidence in Ireland has been recovering since 2013, reaching a record high in June 2015. It fell slightly through 2016, reflecting uncertainly about Brexit and industrial unrest at home.

Confidence picked up again in 2017 in response to strong employment data and has remained steady into Q1 of this year. The current high level is a response to the growing economy, the benefits of which are being felt by greater numbers of people.

Consumer confidence in the UK has been negative since Q2 2016 due to worries about Brexit as well as political uncertainty. Confidence remained muted through 2017 but gained 3 points in Q1 of this year. In contrast, consumer confidence has improved across the EU, becoming positive in Q1 2018 (+0.3) compared with -6.4 in Q4 2016.


Consumer Incomes and Spending

The disposable income of Irish households rose by 5% in 2017 to a total of €102 billion, eclipsing the last peak of €101 million experienced in 2007. Increasing numbers in employment was the main driver of the increase in disposable income, with pay increases contributing slightly also. Lower fuel prices and a weakening in the value of Sterling also boosted disposable income.

There are now 2.2 million people at work, up 48,000 for the year, and up 344,000 from 2012. Pay increases of 2% were common in 2015 and 2016; this rose to 3% in 2017 and looks to be similar this year.

Total personal consumption reached €100 billion in 2017, up 3.2% in current terms on 2016. This is a bit less than the growth rate of the two previous years, which averaged 3.8% per annum.

Household spending, which accounts for about 94% of all personal spending, closely mirrors income. It began to pick up in 2014, increased by 4.5% in 2015, by 3.5% in 2016, and by 3.2% in 2017. Forecasts indicate a similar rate of growth in 2018 and 2019.


Consumer Borrowing

Borrowing by Irish households grew at a record level from 2000 and peaked in March 2008 at €150 billion, but declined steadily since then, down 40% to €86 billion in Q4 2016 or €30,199 per capita. Household debt turned a corner in 2017, growing by 2%, the first sign of a return to normal conditions.

Loans for house purchase, which account for 84% of household loans, peaked in Q1 2008 at €124 billion, but fell to a low of €73 Billion by Q4 2016, a decline of 40%. Mortgage lending has begun to increase again since then, up by €4 billion by end 2017, an annual growth of 5%. A total of 70,488 accounts (10%) were in arrears at end-December 2017.

Lending for other consumption accounts for approximately 18% of total borrowing. This category peaked in Q1 2008 at €30 billion but dropped to €12 billion by December 2016, a reduction of 60%. This category resumed growth in mid-2016 and grew by a very significant 5% in 2017.

Overall, the ratio of household debt to disposable income has fallen by 60% from a peak of 215% in mid-2011, down more than any other EU country. This ratio stood at 140% in Q3 2017, which leaves Irish households still the fourth most indebted in the EU.

Household net worth stood at €712bn in Q3 2017, or €148,655 per capita. This was just 1% lower than the previous peak in Q2 2007, and is largely due to the recovery in property prices.


Residential Property

Residential property is the sector under most pressure, and this has been the case ever since the economy started to recover. There were 48,111 homes sold in 2016 which was actually lower than the 48,248 sold in 2015, in a situation of very short supply.

Sales strengthened to 51,688 in 2017 (up 7%), the highest level since the recession. Transactions are up by a further 5% in the first months of 2018, suggesting a final figure of about 55,000 for the year. This is a 300% increase since 2011 when just 18,400 properties were sold.

This increase in sales has occurred in spite of a lack of stock; there were just 18,900 properties for sale in December 2017, or 1% of the national housing stock of 2 million homes. This is being expanded, however, by an increase in the number of new homes being built, estimated at 19,000 last year, and expected to be about 21,000 this year.


Car Sales

Car sales began to recover in 2014 and grew strongly until 2016 when 142,688 were sold. Sales weakened in 2017, down 11% year-on-year, for a total of 127,045. This trend is persisting in 2018 with new car sales down -4% in the first quarter for a total of 58,402.

In contrast, there has been a dramatic rise in the number of imported second hand cars, up 47% in 2016, and up by 46% in 2017 for a total of 92,508. This trend is continuing in 2018, with imports up 8% in the first quarter. At this rate, imports should reach 100,000 for the year, a new record. This reflects the weakening of sterling which makes imports better value.

Taken together, car sales in 2017 were up 3.5%, which is reasonably healthy, and look like maintaining this level for 2018 rather than showing much growth.


Retail Spending

Retail sales were strong in 2017, up 4.3% for the year in volume terms, and up 2% in value. Growth accelerated as the year progressed, to a level of 7% in Q4, suggesting strong momentum into 2018. This equated to spending of €40 billion which is back to the levels seen in the last boom. Vat returns were also very strong, up by 7% in 2017 for a total of €13 billion.

Retail sales excluding the motor trade grew by 4.3% in volume in Q1 2018 and by 2% in value, year-on-year, despite the exceptionally bad weather conditions over that period. Retail sub-categories had mixed fortunes, with some up and others down in Q1. Household equipment continued to be the fastest growing category, up 10.2% in volume and 2.6% in value, year-on-year. Supermarkets and other food stores performed well but most other categories did badly, reverting to negative trends that haven’t been seen for several years.

  • Food sales up 5.2% in volume and up 3.9% in value;
  •  Non-specialised stores (supermarkets) up 5.7% in volume and 4.5% in value;
  • Fuel down -1.7% in volume and -1.6% in value;
  • Clothing, footwear & textiles up 2.2% in volume but down -1.0% in value;
  • Household equipment up 10.2% in volume and 2.6% in value;
  • Department stores up 4.9% in volume and 1.0% in value;
  • Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics up 2.6% in volume but down 1.3% in value;
  • Bar sales down -2.8% in volume and up -0.4% in value.
  • Books, newspapers, stationery down -1.2% in volume but up 0.3% in value.


infographic consumer market monitor q4 2017


About the Author


Mary Lambkin

Mary Lambkin is Professor of Marketing in the UCD School of Business where she teaches courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students and is involved in a range of research projects under the general heading of marketing strategy.  She has written extensively on this subject in academic journals, and also writes commentaries on marketing topics of contemporary interest for professional publications. She has served as Head of the Marketing Group, as Dean of the UCD Business School and as a member of the Governing Authority of the university at various times, and also holds a number of positions in companies and professional organisations outside the university.

About UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School


In 1964, University College Dublin became one of the first universities in Europe to offer the degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA).  In 1991, the graduate business school opened its own campus in Blackrock, County Dublin.  With over 100 faculty members, 1,300 students and 75,000 alumni worldwide, UCD Smurfit School is one of a small number of business schools worldwide and the only school in Ireland, to hold triple international accreditation (US - AACSB, European - EQUIS and UK – AMBA). The school’s programme has been consistently ranked among the leading European business schools’ programmes by the Economist and Financial Times, since 2000.


The School is also a member of CEMS and the Global Network for Advanced Management, which are alliances of leading global business schools.

About The Marketing Institute of Ireland

The Marketing Institute is the professional body for Ireland's marketing people. It exists “to enable marketers to build great brands and great careers”. It does this by sharing best practice, insights and expert content, building the community of marketers, and aiding marketers in career progression. The three themes of content, community and career underpin all Institute activities. The Marketing Institute also owns and operates the All Ireland Marketing Awards, the CMO Summit, and DMX Dublin, Ireland's largest marketing conference.

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