Those who know me will be aware that fashion, not food, is my usual area of expertise. However, I am a consumer too (aren’t we all?) and my Monday morning dash is usually characterised by a pitstop at Boots Holborn to grab lunch, in the hope I will actually have the patience to wait until lunch and not polish it all for elevenses.

Today’s trip to Boots presented some pleasant surprises. The Holborn branch has completely updated its Food to Go offer. While it’s not unusual for Q4 to herald the advent of Christmas edition meal deals (smoked salmon sandwiches anyone?) it’s clear that Boots is pushing much more into growing niches like dairy alternatives and premium labels. Now I’ll re-iterate here that I’m not the go-to person for FMCG insights, but a lot of the new products available at Boots appeal more to the “fashionable lifestyle” mindset and other popular all-encompassing topics we cover at Kantar Consulting like wellbeing and tribe consumerism. Here are 6 ways in which Boots is trying to lever its advantage by delivering on these niche needs:

Cross-promotion between sandwiches and beauty.

By highlighting cross-category promotions on its packaging, Boots is drawing attention to categories that could be of interest to potential gift shoppers who conventionally visit Boots exclusively for the meal deal, e.g. male gifters

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Fridge Raiders have gone posh.

While Boots still offers the traditional meat snacks, it has now introduced a mini-mezze box from Fridge Raiders, which rivals the Graze offer. While still emphasising the protein boost credentials, the packaging for the Combo Mix is cleaner and more sophisticated with feel good flavours that directly compete with Graze, like BBQ and Chilli.

Anusha Boots
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Alpro to Go

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This was one of the biggest surprises on the shelf, but of course – why wouldn’t this be the next step for dairy alternatives? A whole host of new iced coffee to go options using a full range of Alpro editions, uniting its dairy-free USP with coffee culture in flavour combos such as Ethiopian Coffee & Soya Caramel.

Premium water options
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This was just one of many in Boots’ expanded premium water range, but Dash water does a lot of things in one little can. Firstly, it appeals directly to the on-the-go mentality (it’s in the name!) that underpins the whole Food-To-Go model. Secondly, it trades on the British-made credentials (if multiple water-based options isn’t a sign of what post-Brexit beverages will look like when French wine, German beer and Italian spirits become more expensive to import, I don’t know what is). If 2013 was the year for English Sparkling Wine, 2019 will be the year for British Sparkling Water. Thirdly, the Dash brand reinforces the 0 calories messaging that fits in with the healthy living push that is driving consumer behaviour. This is nothing new; generally speaking, water has always been calorie-free! But the focus of the packaging somehow makes sound like an impressively unique feature.

Sustainable Packaging
In another premium water addition, Just Water is all about the sustainability story. The most prominent tagline, other than ‘contains water’ is the ‘plant-based cap’. The message? Don’t buy me for what’s on the inside, buy me for what’s on the outside. Obviously you can get water cheaper in any old plastic bottle, but I’m a super special 54% paper bottle using new age plastic alternatives and, while water is just water at the end of the day, by buying me you’re effortlessly doing your bit for the environment. You’re welcome.

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Advantage card
Finally, who knew Boots Advantage Cards can now legally drink anywhere in the world? Just kidding – at 21 years old, the Boots Advantage card remains one of the most generous, comprehensive loyalty schemes in the UK. It also means Boots holds a lot of data on its regular shoppers. The company is leveraging the milestone to host a range of brand-centric marketing and promotional events, bringing its promotional calendar forward and using the occasion to get ahead of rivals who will be slowly building towards the more competitive Black Friday event. In doing so, Boots is cutting through the noise that will no doubt overwhelm consumers come the end of November and opting for exclusivity over ubiquity.
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