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Phill Lempert

Lempert Report: Top Ten American Food Trends 2013 – six to ten

Phil Lempert, also known as the Supermarket Guru, is one of America’s leading consumer trend-watchers and analysts. Here are his top trends for 2013 – numbers six to ten. Read about the first five here.

Trend # 6: Frozen foods evolve into foods that are frozen

Consumers of all ages are looking for solutions to help feed their families with the tastiest, easiest to prepare and for some, the healthiest foods possible – at the right price. Data from The Hartman Group reports that 44% of all adult eating happens alone; underscoring the need for more single serve and convenience. While the frozen foods department has typically satisfied these needs, today unit sales are down more than any other department in the supermarket.

One reason for the decline is the perception of frozen foods. Many of these younger consumers think of frozen foods as “processed” versus “prepared” when they peruse the aisle. But that is about to change.

Look for this fallacy to disappear as frozen food makers begin to tout their “real food” ingredients and explain the freezing process better: how the extreme cold temperature in the freezing process slows down the growth of microorganisms and other naturally occurring changes that affect quality or cause food to spoil.

Trend # 7: Lifestyle – Men in the supermarket and in the kitchen

In 2012 our #7 trend was also about the male; the new role of the male shopper and reported that 41% of all family cooking was now being led by dad. In 2013 we see the male’s influence on our foods becoming even stronger as even more dads join the ranks of shopper and cook, and as more men remain single longer (median age for male first time marriages was 22.8 years in 1960 versus 28.4 years old in 2009).

One driver is certainly the reality that many more husbands are working at home, or find themselves looking for work and taking over some household duties in the meantime. Another is discovering the enjoyment in preparing foods. Yet another is becoming more involved in food preparation for lifestyle changes or health reasons.

Some supermarkets are experimenting with “man-aisles” – locations in the store which feature male oriented foods and other products to make shopping and impulse buying more targeted. We see however a longer lasting effort to attract and empower the male shopper through in-store shopping and nutrition tours and programs like Men’s Health magazine’s cooking school.

Trend # 8: Mobile the next generation – Tests for allergens, ripening produce, organics, and start cooking your meals

iPhones have changed everything. Forty-three percent of all cellphone users in the US have smartphones. Food retailers are of two minds about mobile commerce. Some operators feel they gain competitive advantage serving the demands of omni-channel shoppers, and even embrace them with location-based check-in deals. Others resent the price and performance pressures applied by smartphone- and tablet-toting shoppers, who find product, price and consumer review information on the Web and apps before and during visits to their stores.

Food shoppers on the other hand have embraced mobile to do everything from preparing shopping lists, compare prices, find recipes, find out what’s on sale, sharing food pictures, food ratings as well as searching everything they can about a food’s background, nutrition and benefits. That was the starting point, and now food mobile gets really interesting.

Smart phones will network with our kitchen appliances and allow us to do everything from checking how much milk we have left in the fridge to starting to heat up the oven on the drive home.

Apps are being developed that utilize sensors, which attach to the mobile device, to test whether foods are actually organic, have specific allergens or ingredients and can be used as glucose monitors for diabetics and blood pressure machines on the go.

We predict this next generation of apps that may require peripherals will expand to include apps that can determine if fruits and vegetables are ripe, if refrigerated and frozen foods have been kept at the correct temperature throughout the supply chain, and even test for food borne bacteria including E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria. A personal “food lab” in every shopper’s pocket.

Trend # 9: Lifestyle – Millenials go retail – as employees

Millenials have a hard time finding a silver lining in this economy, with so many of them highly educated, carrying high debt for their degrees, and unemployed or underemployed. Boomers have delayed their retirement to replenish their nest eggs, but will likely step aside within a handful of years. Millenials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. This should open new jobs at pay rates that seem fair to both employers (less than the mature workers made) and the educated workers on the rise.

It could be payoff time for people who’ve re-schooled to fit into fields targeted for growth such as healthcare. Few, if any, extended-students today are taken on tuition debt just to feel productive during a slow economy – they are retooling to be competitive in fields targeted for growth.

But for now, according to a study released by PayScale, the most common jobs held by this generation are retail floor clerks and sales representatives, both are among the lowest paying jobs. Retail clerks average $19,300 per year. An opportunity for food retailers.

Store staffers are the face and personality of a supermarket. Costco and Trader Joe’s appear to understand this. Whole Foods built their reputation on having food and health knowledgeable staff in every aisle. They value their employees and pay them relatively well to help create positive environments that keep turnover down. Continuity of well-trained staff is becoming more important, since smartphone-equipped shoppers armed with product and price information demand more responsiveness at the store level.

We predict a new opportunity for the food-centric, food-loving Millenials in supermarkets. In our view, food retailers at both the high and low-end of the wage spectrum could benefit by hiring Millenials, not only with more livable wages, but with career development opportunities that will both empower the individual to make use of their talents and passion, but also to feed the growing need for educated young talent.

Trend # 10: Transparency – who is making our food?

In our Trend Forecast for 2012 we predicted the end of the Celebrity Chef and the beginning of the Celebrity Farmer era. More shoppers are interested in knowing not only where their foods are coming from, but also want to know about the people making their foods and are learning about their stories.

Shoppers are spending the time and reading more food packages as they shop the aisles in the supermarkets. They are looking for real information – not the faux stories about some dining experience in a mythical romantic inn located in an idyllic setting where it inspired a recipe – but information they desire to trace recipes and foods back to their heritage. Food transparency is here to stay.

People are choosing their foods more holistically based on all the “food factors”; taste, ingredients, source, nutritional composition as well as asking who is making their foods along with understanding the impact on our environment and animal welfare.

We predict that 2013 will be a transitional year as on package claims proliferate and may confuse; look for supermarkets to take up the role of gatekeeper and actually demand proof (transparency!) of these claims before they will permit them to be sold on their shelves.

About the author: Phil Lempert is one of the best-known US analysts on consumer behaviour, marketing trends, new products and the changing retail landscape. He publishes prolifically online and is a regular on US television and radio and in newspapers.

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