According to the NPD Group, for several years now, more than 80 percent of meals have been sourced from home; fewer than 20 percent have been sourced from foodservice, and dollars are evenly split between the two. Below are the top trends that will impact how consumers choose to spend their food dollars in 2017. Understanding these trends can help you increase engagement and ultimately increase sales.
1. The Evolution of Convenience:
In our “on-demand” world, expectations of “convenience” are different from what they were just a couple of years ago. In an effort to minimize effort and frustration, products, services, and technologies are rapidly elevating consumers’ perceptions of convenience. Portability is evolving from “grab and go” to handheld solutions for on-the-go, multitasking consumers. Physical store formats are evolving and offering faster service and checkout. Next-day delivery is being overtaken by even faster delivery possibilities as part of a strategy to give customers more options to shop when they want, where they want.
As convenience continues to evolve, producers, retailers and operators can provide help with related services beyond the immediate product to bring additional value to consumers – from meal kits to fully or partially prepared items - for in-store/restaurant pickup or home delivery.
2. Wellness as a status symbol:
The desire to be fit and healthy seems to be almost universal and healthy living is becoming a status symbol. As they live longer and better, consumers worldwide
across all generations recognize that food is central to their overall wellness and want to make choices that help them feel their best. This fuels the demand for healthier, better-quality eating options with functional benefits and creates the need for dietary information connected to their own personal needs. This cultural shift towards a proactive approach to wellness cuts across all demographic and traditional consumer groups and is giving rise to a growing interest in personalized nutrition
All generations – whether an aging population managing health conditions or younger generations exploring how to age better – will look to the produce department for foods that deliver on key nutritional needs, functional benefits and taste. Produce suppliers, marketers and retailers can stay in the forefront of consumers’ wellness plans by helping them build strategies for eating well in ways that satisfy their need for customization, flavor discovery and convenience.
Fresh produce plays a large role as consumers seek to balance nutrition with flavor. Flavor plays a large role in experimentation, according to Technomic’s Flavor Consumer Trend Report.
While classic flavors certainly still appeal, many of today’s consumers are increasingly driven to try new flavors; saying new flavors can influence them to visit a restaurant. Consumers have come to expect new, unique flavors, so routinely switching up flavors can help keep customers coming back, while making minor tweaks or cross-utilizing ingredients can help keep costs down.
While consumer demand for new and interesting flavor profiles can be challenging to product developers, it also offers an abundance of opportunities. Having a unique flavor is a great way to differentiate a product from the competition. In addition, flavor translates to more than just a tasty product; flavor can carry with it other attributes that consumers desire.
4. Customization (with curation):
“People aren’t adding new eating occasions to their day, but how meal and between-meal occasions are composed will continue to change”, according to David Portalatin, vice president, food industry analyst at NPD Group and author of Eating Patterns in America. He explains that foods that offer the flexibility to compose an eating occasion to fit specific needs at a given time will grow, whether packaged goods or foodservice offerings. So it’s not surprising that 72 percent of consumers expect restaurants to accommodate customization requests. (Technomic, Flavor Consumer Trend Report) And while the rapidly growing subscription services market currently capitalizes on convenience, it is beginning to emphasize customization as well. There will be increased demand for various components of “homemade” meals and snacks — from fully or partially prepared to just components, according to Portalatin. Opportunity exists all along the preparation continuum, from prepared foods to meal kits to restaurant delivery.
But while the ability to customize is important, consumers struggle to identify what they want when confronted with too many choices. So curate for them and give them a handful of choices that they can select from. Regardless of how they get it, giving people what they want is a good way to get them in the door and keep them coming back.