After the festive blow-out comes the new year clear-out, as consumers attempt to regain control of their waistlines, and also their finances.

And with 91% of dieters admitting to “breaking all the rules” on Christmas Day, and let’s be honest, probably Boxing Day, too, it’s easy to understand why the desire to detox is so strong in the early part of the year.

But as the following pages show, if you’ve got the right ranges in place to meet their needs, frugal shoppers don’t have to have to signal skinny sales for you.

One retailer who is expecting to reap the rewards of a health-focused new year range is Manny Patel, who owns a busy convenience store in the heart of residential Long Ditton, Surrey. He says: “I notice a significant change in people’s buying habits come January.”

He explains: “There are those shoppers for whom losing weight is the focus and they buy into the packet soups and calorie shakes. Then there are the customers who are keen to detox and be healthy, for whom naturalness and freshness is important. Thanks to them I see sales of fresh produce shoot up in the early part of the year as people prepare healthier meals such as salads, vegetarian meals and soups at home. I also buy in extra stocks of fresh farmhouse soups to meet the needs of health-conscious shoppers with less time on their hands, and they go down very well. Sales of other more ‘unhealthy’ products such as chocolate bars and white bread, which I am told is not conducive to weight loss, fall during this period to be replaced by cereal bars and wholemeal bread. Value for money is still important, though, especially after Christmas.”.

Manny’s bound to be pleased, then, by the news that prepared produce brand Florette is kicking off its marketing activity early in 2012 by placing its Florette Crispy and Mixed salads on promotion for £1. The move will give the brand a powerful presence during the key new year selling period, leveraging the seasonal appetite for health and well-being, marketing manager Elaine Smith says.

“We will be hitting 2012 head-on by rolling out our biggest marketing spend to date, to stimulate sales and category growth across volume and convenience retailers alike. Times remain tough, inevitably meaning that consumers will be demanding more than ever from their fresh food options, gravitating towards those brands that offer them the reassurance of the freshest quality products that will go the distance and provide value for money.

“Freshness continues to be vitally important for fruit and vegetable consumers and this is especially the case in the current climate. Call it a case of demanding extra crunch from the crunch, but the economic situation means that consumers are wanting more than ever from their fresh food options. Getting five a day is one thing, but as shoppers are forced to justify their choices and expenditure, they are turning to those products and brands that give them the reassurance of the finest and freshest quality, as well as offering convenience and value,” she says.

This month also sees the launch of Baxters’ Stay Full Challenge - a two-week eating plan that promises to keep consumers feeling fuller for longer, boost energy levels and reduce unhealthy snacking through the day. Designed by nutritionists, the plan offers daily meal options comprising one can of Stay Full soup a day for either lunch or dinner.

When it comes to being healthier, snacks tend to be the key areas that shoppers address, ditching high-calorie bites and bars which deliver an instant sugary hit before letting you fall flat an hour or so later, in favour of products which release energy slowly. As a result, cereal bars tend to do well at this time of year, as do yogurts which, thanks to a raft of high-profile celebrity-backed advertising campaigns, have been successfully positioned as a healthy snacks and breakfast substitutes.

Yogurt, says Müller Dairy’s commercial director Colin Smith, tends to sell well all year round, but the category does experience a significant new year uplift. In fact, Colin says that the number of households purchasing Müllerlight in January last year was almost 50% higher than the average from other months of the year.

“It’s these sharp uplifts that catch retailers out if they haven’t taken into account seasonal adjustments to purchasing patterns,” he warns.

This month Onken is hoping for similar success thanks to the relaunch of its Fat Free Fruit Yogurt, which now comes free from artificial sweeteners. The move, says Laura Graham, marketing manager of Emmi UK, resulted from consumer feedback and the macro trend across the total yogurt category where two-thirds of yogurt consumers say they are are looking for a more natural product.

And with cooking from scratch in a bid to pile in more natural foods, high on shoppers’ new year’s resolutions, brands such as Flora Cuisine - which has 45% less fat than olive oil - are also set to sparkle in the coming months.

According to Pankaj Sharma, spreads category director at Unilever UK, Flora Cuisine has already seen value sales of more than £4m since its launch in March. Unilever plans to invest significantly in supporting Flora Cuisine throughout 2012, and Sharma says that to ensure maximum sales, retailers should merchandise Flora Cuisine in the chiller near other Flora products.

However, it’s in the alcohol category that the desire to detox is most readily felt at this time of year.Many shoppers, adds Manny, attempt to give up drinking altogether in the month of January, leading to corking soft drink sales, while others are increasingly looking for lower alcohol, and therefore calorie content, variants.

When you consider that two large glasses of wine contain the same number of calories as a beef burger it’s easy to understand the demand for lighter wines, particularly among women.

The trend prompted the birth of a number of new brands in 2011, and is expected to really take off in 2012. One brand tipped for success is Jacob’s Creek Cool Harvest. Harvested during the coolest part of the night and using grapes from cooler regions, the wines range from a 9.5% abv for a Vermentino, or 10.5% abv for a Sauvignon Blanc.

Brand Phoenix has also pledged to reduce all its full-strength First Cape red wines by about 0.8% abv this month. It’s said that doing so will remove 50 million units from the wine category.

And that’s not all. Accolade Wines is also stepping up its efforts to promote Banrock Station Light and the lighter drinking category as a whole with a £1m heavyweight marketing campaign, including a link-up with Weight Watchers.

Most retailers agree that the uplift in sales of healthy products tends to last until around mid-February before diets and good intentions are placed firmly back on the shelf. However, this year looks set to be different.

2012 looks set to be a year where the nation’s health and fitness comes under the spotlight like never before thanks largely to the Olympic Games in July.

The excitement and fanfare of the Games is bound to inspire consumers of all ages to get active and look for healthier food and drink options to help them on their way, meaning that those retailers stocking natural, low-calorie, tasty and affordable products should strike gold.

This year the government will also take a new approach to fighting the nation’s flab. So far its Responsibility Deal has focused on commitments to salt reduction, artificial trans fat elimination, and out-of-home calorie labelling. However, the next phase involves initiatives to reduce the calorie intake of the population, and the energy density of foods (the energy content, or calories, per unit weight of foods) is one area that will be scrutinised.

Foods with a high water content such as fruit and vegetables have a low energy density, typically less than 1 kcal/gram, meaning that more can be eaten for fewer calories. It’s a development which is likely to see the birth of a number of new veg-packed ready meals. The five-a-day message also looks set to be heightened.

So while the nation is intent on shedding those unwanted inches, convenience stores that stock a quality range of fresh fruit and vegetables could well be piling on the £1s. ■

A Red Bull is ploughing £1.5m into promoting its sugar-free variant this month. The campaign focuses on the low-calorie message and is aimed at health-conscious consumers. Each can of Red Bull Sugarfree has all of the functional benefits of regular Red Bull, but with just eight calories.

rrp: £1.35

tel: 01344 418396

Accolade Wines is championing the lighter drinking category with a £1m campaign for its Banrock Station Light wine, abv 5.5%. The six-month campaign includes press ads and a link-up with Weight Watchers. It focuses on the fact that a 125ml glass contains just 60 calories.

rrp: £5.49

tel: 01483 690000 January sees the launch of a new look and flavour for the Müller Vitality probiotic yogurt and yogurt drink range. All yogurt four-packs and drink six-packs will feature the blue Müller pack designs launched across Müller Corner, Müllerlight and Müller Rice last summer.

rrp: yogurt £1.58 drink £1.99

tel: 01630 692 000 January sees the relaunch of all three Fat Free Fruit Onken Big Pot 450g yogurts. Fat-free strawberry, vanilla and mango & apple have had sweeteners removed from recipes, meaning they are now fat-free and completely natural. An on-pack flash communicates the new recipes.

rrp: Big Pot Yogurts 450g £1.28

tel: 0208 875 2540