Population trends

Date : 26 April 2010

- Increasing population
- The population is ageing
- Ethnic diversity
- Smaller households
- Higher proportion of women working

Increasing population

The size of the UK's population is growing rapidly. In 2010 there were 62.3 million people living in the UK, which was 470,000 more than in the previous year and an increase of 3.1 million over 2001. By 2035, the UK's population is expected be 73 million.

Out of the four UK countries, population growth between 2010 and 2035 is expected to be fastest in England, where it will increase by 19% to 62.1 million.

The population of Wales is expected to grow by 13% to 3.4 million in the same period, the Scottish population by 12% to 5.8 million and the population of Northern Ireland by 11% to two million.

Actual and projected UK population 

actual and projected uk population

Source: 2008 based national projections

The population is ageing

On average, people are living longer than ever before. In March 2012 the Office for National Statistics reported that the proportion of the UK population aged under 16 dropped from 25% in 1971 to 19% in 2010. Meanwhile, the proportion of people aged 65 and over rose from 13% in 1971 to 17% on 2010.

This trend is projected to continue. By 2035, 23% of the population will be aged 65 or over compared with the 18% of the population that will be aged 16 or younger.

The fastest population increase has been among those aged 85 and over, often known as the 'oldest old'. In 1985, there were just 700,000 people in the UK aged 85 or over. By 2010, the numbers had doubled, reaching 1.4 million. By 2035 there will be 3.5 million people aged 85 and over, representing 5% of the total population.

This burgeoning older generation represents a significant marketing opportunity for the food and beverage industry. However, to find success with this group of consumers it will be important to focus on meeting their needs by providing clearer labelling, smaller pack sizes, local food and healthy product formulations. It will also be important to prioritise customer service and ease of shopping.

Ethnic diversity

Increased migration to the UK over recent decades has resulted in a more ethically diverse population. In 2011, net migration into the UK reached 250,000 compared with about 150,000 in 2002.

Immigration into the UK will continue to provide opportunities for food and beverage manufacturers and retailers. The immediate needs of the immigrant population itself will need to be met, and the presence of more and larger ethnic minorities in the UK will undoubtedly have an impact on overall food culture, as it has in the past. Greater exposure to new cultures broadens the horizons of the existing population, who wish to experience new cuisines as a result.

Smaller households

More people are now living alone. The number of single person households reached almost three in ten (29%) in 2011 compared with 14% in 1961.

The number of one-person households in England will increase by 60% to nearly 11 million households by 2031, according to Office for National Statistics

The existence of more single person households means that demand for smaller portion sizes will increase while convenience food options will continue to be important for those who do not want to cook a meal from scratch just for themselves.

Some 4.3 million people who lived alone in 2011 were aged 16 to 64. Of those in this age group, the majority (59%) were male.

For those aged 65 or over, the pattern is reversed. At this age, the majority of people living alone (69%) are female. This is partly because there are more women than men in the total population aged 65 or over due to the higher life expectancy of women.

The decrease in average household size will impact shoppers' needs, increasing demand for smaller pack sizes, ready-prepared food and eating out. It may also reduce the incidence of people eating formal meals and increase the likelihood of people grazing on snacks and smaller meals throughout the day. 

Household size in decline

Household size in decline

Source: Census, Labour Force Survey, Office for National Statistics

Higher proportion of women working

According to the Office for National Statistics, the proportion of women aged 16 to 64 in employment has grown to 66% in 2011 from less than 60% in 1971. In comparison, the proportion of men in employment has declined from more than 90% to 75% over the same time period.

This means it will be important for retailers and suppliers to continue to find time-saving solutions to meet the needs of working women.

There has also been an increase in the number of part-time workers. Between Q1 2008 (the last quarter before the recession) and Q1 2011 the number of people in full-time employment fell by 3.1%. But the number of people in part-time employment increased by 5.6%. Women make up two thirds of part-time workers.

The growth in the number of women in employment has contributed to greater demand for more convenience in recent decades, with an increased focus on impulse, out-of-home and on-the-go consumption.

IGD research, 'What convenience shoppers want' (2012), has shown that growth in the number of part-time workers is contributing to growth in convenience store shopping. Shopping more on a ‘little and often’ basis helps working women to save time and fit food and grocery shopping into their busy lifestyles.

Related Internet links:

- http://www.statistics.gov.uk/hub/index.html