Millennials, health-conscious shoppers and a shift in consumer palates set the stage for what’s to come in the food world this year, according to Phil Lempert. The food marketing trends analyst, who works closely with Omaha, Nebraska, USA-headquartered ConAgra Food, Inc. and its retailers, predicts that the most dramatic food changes in 2014 will stem from ever-changing consumers and their relationships with merchants, brands and food.
“How consumers interact with their food and favorite brands will continue to evolve as we head into 2014,” says Lempert. “Shoppers are looking for convenient, healthful and satisfying food for themselves and their families, and brands will rise to meet these demands through product innovation and the use of mobile technology to make shopping faster and more convenient.”
Lempert sees these 10 trends gaining attention from consumers in 2014:
1. The Emergence of the “IndieWoman”: Almost 31 million strong in the USA, the “IndieWoman” segment of the market will be a major food influencer. These women are 27 and older, live alone and have no children. When they are not busy socializing or cultivating their careers, they also enjoy shopping. According to a Milo.com survey, these women have strong affiliations to brands and love to hunt for bargains. When it comes to their supermarket habits, “IndieWomen” spend $50 billion on food and beverages each year.
Time is of the essence for the “IndieWoman,” so look for more brands to cater to this powerful consumer who wants to cook, but might not have the time for a homemade meal every night. A ConAgra Foods survey, conducted by Lempert’s SupermarketGuru.com organization, found that 59% of respondents purchased multi-serve frozen meals because of their busy schedules. Because they are increasingly busy, brands will cater to this demographic through more semi-homemade meals that use fresh-tasting, high-quality ingredients like P.F. Chang’s Home Menu or Bertolli frozen meals – both of which just happen to be ConAgra brands.
2. Better for You Snacking: When researching the association between daily snacking frequency and the Healthy Eating Index, researchers from the NPD Group recently found that as snacking increased, so did individuals’ overall diet quality. As a result, healthy options for consumers are on the rise with nearly 60% of all snack foods now positioned as “better for you,” according to Innova Market Insights.
Look for supermarkets to capitalize on the healthier snacking trend in 2014 by replacing traditional higher-sugar, higher-fat snacks with “better-for-you,” on-the-go offerings.
3. Brands Reach Consumers Locally Through Cause Initiatives: In 2013, consumers heard a lot about real, transparent and simple foods. In 2014, brands will extend this “feel-good” simplicity by finding greater purpose in serving the larger community. A survey recently conducted by ConAgra Foods found that 62% of consumers appreciate and want to support companies that donate to important social causes.
In 2014, look for food brands to increasingly focus on community outreach. ConAgra Foods has been a leader in the campaign against child hunger in America for the past 20 years through education, food and monetary donations equaling more than $60 million and equating to 315 million pounds of food. In 2010, the brand launched the Child Hunger Ends Here program in partnership with Feeding America, and has already donated the monetary equivalent of more than 13 million meals to children with a goal of an additional five million meals in 2014.
4. Click to Cook: As consumers continue to rely on technology for the sake of convenience and saving time, people will begin to rely more on their mobile phones when grocery shopping. In a recent online ConAgra Foods survey, one third of consumers reported using their mobile phone while at the grocery store, most often to refer to shopping lists and recipes.
IT will continue to play an important role for shoppers as the next phase of technology will offer the ability to select a recipe, order ingredients and check-out directly from mobile devices or in-car touch screens. Watch for grocery retailers to install drive-through windows for quick order pickup. Additionally, consumers will increasingly turn to online shopping sites for mealtime staples. They will also use tools like ReadySetEat.com, which allows users to not only find recipes, but also nearby deals on the ingredients.
5. Supermarkets – The New Culinary Schools: To add value in an increasingly competitive food retailer environment, supermarkets are becoming the center of communities. Taking a cue from what is already occurring in the social media food world, grocery stores are beginning to offer services such as “community cooking centers” where shoppers can collaborate and learn from each other. These social environments are the perfect place for the aging Millennial population, it is a group that likes to cook, but doesn’t necessarily have the skills to make elaborate meals at home.
As consumers are looking for a more “connected culture,” retailers will begin rethinking the layout of the supermarket. The will offer solution centers where all of the ingredients for certain recipes are found together to bring the recipe-making experience in-store. Food companies will work with retailers to understand consumer purchase habits and how to best reach shoppers in-store.
6. The Retailer Becomes the Brand: Consumers have become increasingly loyal to preferred retailers and their products. In fact, a recent survey by ConAgra Foods found that 53% of consumers shop at a particular retailer because it has good store brand products. This aligns with the report by the Private Label Manufacturers Association (PLMA) that states store brand sales increased by more than 2.9% in 2012, pushing annual revenues to more than $108 billion – an all-time record, according to Nielsen.
The growth stems from the rising quality of private labels, and the blurring distinction between store brands and national brands
7. Rise and Shine – The New Way to Start Your Day: Breakfast remains one of the most important meals of the day, with 74% of respondents from a ConAgra Foods survey reporting that they eat breakfast regularly at home. In 2014, consumers will look to add more protein to their first meal, with Mintel reporting that consumers are increasingly looking at foods like eggs, meats and Greek yogurt, as well as whole grain products, for their breakfast to live a healthy lifestyle without compromising taste and indulgence.
Look for more brands to offer protein-rich breakfast options.
8. Packaging Evolves to Share More with Consumers: Food packaging is evolving. This year, canned soups shifted to carton packaging with more than 58% of all broth products transitioning into cartons, according to Symphony IRI research. Pasta sauce is following the trend as well.
Consumers are looking for more information, but the current surface area of the package is limiting. In 2014, look for packaging to become “touch” sensitive to reveal additional information on command. Using an app on a mobile device, consumers will be able to learn more about an ingredient or health claim by simply focusing the mobile device on the product’s label. This technology might also be used to tell where the ingredients come from, who prepared the food, the company’s history and even offer other customer reviews and ratings.
9. Millennials Make the Supermarket Social: The Millennial generation’s fascination with social media will begin to overflow into other parts of their lives – including the supermarket. In fact, 57% of Pinterest, the pinboard-style photo-sharing website, is made of food-related content. Fully 33% of Pinterest users say they have purchased food or cooking items after seeing them on site, according to a survey by PriceGrabber. Grocery retailers are now even beginning to “pin.” For example, one store’s registered dietitian may create an infographic that displays superfoods and their nutritional benefits.
Store chefs will begin using Pinterest to show prepared food recipes more often. Amazon.com and other online retailers, such as Google Shopping Express, offer same day delivery and supply back-end technologies, which allow impulse purchasing and home delivery of all the ingredients for a particular recipe. The next evolution will be “click to buy” for consumers looking to purchase ingredients for a recipe on Pinterest or other social media platforms.
10. International Restaurant Flavors At Home: The surge of Latino and Asian populations in the USA, along with growing consumer interest in adding more flavor and variety to mealtime occasions, has led to more growth opportunities for South American, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines in the food world. From school cafeterias, to the dining room table, global flavors are sprouting up in places other than restaurants.
As children become exposed to global cuisine flavors at a much younger age than in previous generations, international flavors will be more accepted by these kids as they age, and their palates will be more sophisticated at a younger age. With children influencing nearly 80% of purchase decisions by families, look for consumers to spend more time in the international flavor aisle of the grocery store, so they can bring these new flavors to their dinner table with options like frozen Indian and Middle Eastern meals.