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Sloan Top Ten Trends

Top Ten Food Trends

Unprecedented changes in lifestyles and eating patterns, a greater demand for healthier fare and more ethical options, and consumers’ desire to know more about the foods they choose will cause dramatic changes in the way the food industry does business in the years ahead. Eating alone, home meals for millennials, a new definition of health, and a demand for true transparency are among the important consumer trends that represent new opportunities for the food industry. A synopsis of dominant trends, with American bias, as researched and reported by Elizabeth Sloan, colunmist for IFT’s Food Technology magazine and president of Sloan Trends.

1. A Repositioned Palate
The foodie movement has set new product and culinary criteria for even the most basic everyday eating experiences and has repositioned the American palate.

Four in 10 adult eating occasions (41%) can now be described as “savouring,” a descriptor designed to convey a new upscale eating experience defined by freshness, distinctive flavors, foodie narratives, provenance, and more. Ten percent of dinner occasions, 7% of lunch occasions, 5% of breakfasts, and 5% of snacks fall into this more sophisticated culinary category (Hartman, 2011).

Rice, Chinese food, salads, eggs, beans, hamburgers, potatoes, vegetables, sweets, and meat cuts are the foods consumers would most like to see upgraded (Hartman, 2011).

2. Redefining Health
Consumers have taken a more holistic approach to defining healthy foods. For food marketers, creating a healthy halo now requires delivering against a combination of important elements—freshness, positive add-ins, avoidance of undesirable substances, high-quality ingredients, an aura of natural, real, or close to the farm, as well as, when appropriate, some ethical, sustainable, and humane criteria (Technomic, 2012c).

Fresh is a healthy eating strategy for 60% of consumers (FMI, 2012). Nine in 10 (87%) think fresh foods are healthier; 80% look for fresh descriptors at retail, 58% in restaurants (Technomic, 2012c).

Three-quarters of adults (74%) believe that “home-made” or “house-made” foods/drinks are healthier; 72% associate sameday preparation with healthfulness; 61% believe foods labeled “real” are healthful, 58% believe that of products labeled “made from scratch,” and 60% think it is true for food described as “never frozen” (Technomic, 2012c).

Health also appears to be strongly related to quality. Four in 10 consumers (43%) think that products labeled “premium” are more healthful; 38% think that of products with the descriptor “artisan,” 37% “authentic,” and 33% “seasonal” (Technomic, 2012c).

3. Generational Cooking
With millennials cutting back on restaurant visits for the fifth year in a row, developing home meal products that appeal to this new generation of cooks is a very big idea (NPD, 2013b).

Not surprisingly with limited cooking skills, millennials are the most likely to use no-cook meal preparations and are the most frequent consumers of pre-cooked fresh retail meals and frozen dinners (Packaged Facts, 2012a).

Although millennials have a higher tendency to use a wider variety of cooking methods (55% vs 45% overall), they are second to those age 65+ (58% vs 48% overall) for use of the microwave oven (Mintel, 2012b).

4. Eating Alone
A dramatic increase in the number of adults eating alone—regardless of their family dynamics—and the diversity of venues from which consumers now source their meals, snacks, and drinks represent two of the largest untapped opportunities in the industry today.

In 2011, 44% of all adult eating occasions were alone. Most important, one-third of these alone eatings involved more culinarily sophisticated fare. Nearly two-thirds of solo eatings took place at home, 8% in a restaurant (Hartman, 2011).

When eating dinner alone, Hartman (2011) observed that adults were more likely to choose fresh/refrigerated meals over frozen dinners, creating an unprecedented opportunity for fresh prepared and/or chilled retail meals.

In 2011, prepared refrigerated entrees were the seventh-fastestgrowing CPG food item in FDMC (IRI, 2012b). The number of shoppers buying fresh/chilled prepared meals rose 7% in 2012 (FMI, 2013). Young adults ages 18–24 are the most likely to buy chilled meals, up 11% vs 2010 (Technomic, 2012d).

With empty nesters the largest U.S. household unit, and singles No. 2, it’s not surprising that the “family meal” is fast eroding. Nearly, three-quarters (72%) of adult family eating occasions involve only adult household members; only 28% include children (Hartman, 2011).

5. Seeking True Transparency
“Horse-Gate,” pink slime, gestation pork crates, and cutbacks in the number of US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) meat inspectors are all contributing factors in the current unprecedented demand for transparency in food production/marketing (Anon, 2013). Add to that list the highest Food and Drug Administration–documented food recall activity in the past two years and a fast-emerging desire to align food purchases with personal values.

More than eight in 10 adults have given some thought to food safety in the past year. While 17% have stopped buying a food/brand due to safety concerns, worries over bacteria have impacted choices for 51%, chemicals in food influenced 51%, imported food 49%, pesticides 47%, animal antibiotics 30%, and undeclared allergens 25% (IFIC, 2012).

Over one-quarter (27%) of shoppers think antibiotics/hormones in meat are a “serious health hazard” (FMI, 2011). A steroid-free or hormone-free tag would have a major impact on six in 10 shoppers’ meat purchases (FMI, 2013).

6. Global Look-Alikes
Although more than one-third (37%) of consumers are even more interested in trying ethnic flavours/foods than they were two years ago, when it comes to marketing foreign foods, it’s really no longer about the cuisine (Technomic, 2011a).

More and more, success lies in the ability to identify the ethnic cuisine’s specific food items, flavours, and ingredients that will best integrate into and emulate favourite American foods and forms.

Fox example, Indian naan is well poised to become a fast food sandwich/burger carrier; Mexican griddle sandwiches/tortas and pressed Cubano sandwiches may soon upstage paninis.

Latin American aqua fresca and Thai-style iced tea are overdue to become trendy signature drinks.

Korean barbecue beef and fried chicken; Vietnamese oho and miso soup; Korean bibimbap; black, forbidden, red, and sushi rice; German/Austrian spaetzle; and Indian samosas, pakoras, and curries also have high mainstream ethnic potential.

7. Farmstead Formulations
Hyper-local sourcing (e.g., restaurant gardens), farm/estate brands, small-producer suppliers, and the mainstreaming of farmers’ markets, attest to consumers’ fascination—and growing appreciation for—all things “farm.”

Just over half of consumers looked for “local” descriptors at retail last year, 46% sought out “seasonal,” 40% farm-raised, and 28% “sustainable” (Technomic, 2012c). Locally sourced meats/seafood topped the overall list of ACF chefs’ hot culinary trends for 2013 (NRA, 2012).

The cut and the breed (eg, Berkshire pork or Angus beef )—cited by more than two-thirds of consumers—are the top factors that define premium quality for pork/beef (Technomic, 2011b). Just over one-quarter (26%) of shoppers buy natural or organic meat, up 6% vs 2011 (FMI, 2013).

Lesser known and underutilized species are also capturing customer attention. Arctic char, branzino, barramundi, mackerel, bluefish, and redfish are among the hot entree trends for 2013 (NRA, 2012).

New cuts of meat created by savvy producers (eg, Denver steak, pork flat iron, teres major) are other hot center-of-the-plate culinary trends for 2013 (NRA, 2012).

8. Craveable Finger Foods
One in five of the best-selling new foods introduced last year was bite-sized or handheld; 45% of consumers want snacks that can be eaten on the go (IRI, 2012a; Wyatt, 2013). Most important, these mini-morsels are creating a new generation of craveable foods, and they’re as likely to be savory as sweet.

With one-third of adult snacking (33%) falling into the upscale culinary “savouring” category—and a new/unique flavour an important snack selection criteria for 40% of shoppers—the opportunity for more sophisticated handheld fare is unprecedented (Technomic, 2012a).

Refrigerated appetizers/snack rolls, up 4.9% in volume sales last year and frozen appetizer/snack rolls up 4.7% were among the fastest-growing snacks (Wyatt, 2013).

9. Nutritional Insiders
In 2012, 78% of consumers made a strong effort to get more vitamins, 57% made a strong effort to consume more products with specialty nutritional ingredients, 45% herbs/botanicals, and 42% minerals (MSI, 2011c).

Forty-four percent of consumers are making a strong effort to get more vitamin D; for vitamin C, it is 40%; B vitamins and omega-3s 34%; antioxidants 26%; vitamin E 25%; and vitamin A 24%. Half of consumers made a strong effort to get more protein in 2012 (MSI, 2011c).

With nine in 10 Americans deficient in choline, this B vitamin–like nutrient has enormous food fortification potential, as does magnesium, which has enjoyed double-digit supplement sales growth for the past six years (Sloan, 2013b; NBJ, 2013).

Over half (55%) of consumers would like more clinical proof about the bioavailability of nutrients in fortified foods; bioavailability reached mass market status in 2007 (NMI, 2012; Sloan, 2013a).

Prebiotics are projected to reach mass market status this year (Sloan, 2013a). In 2012, 31% of adults were aware of prebiotics; 13% made a strong effort to get more; 17% made a strong effort to get more probiotics (MSI, 2012a).

Monounsaturated fatty acids are another untapped mass market opportunity (Sloan, 2013a). Three-quarters (74%) are aware of the role of monounsaturated fatty acids in reducing the risk of heart disease (IFIC, 2012).

10. Mother Hens
There is no doubt that one of the most important issues of our time is the ailing health of our children. Yet in 2010, only 40% of the $10 billion U.S. kids’ food and beverage market involved better-for-you-foods (Packaged Facts, 2011b).

Moms are more likely than shoppers overall to buy nutritionally enhanced food/drinks (46% vs 39%) and to actively seek out nutritional information/guidelines (61% vs 56%). They are significantly more likely to buy products with a high fiber or calcium claim and about as likely as the overall population to buy low-/no-fat items (Packaged Facts, 2013b). Moms also are more likely to feel that food stores should do more to help their customers eat more healthily (57% vs 52%) (Packaged Facts, 2013b).

They are more likely to choose the organic version in fresh departments and the center store. This is most obvious in their choice of yogurt, meat/poultry, cheese, bread, and fresh produce. In the center aisles, they are 36% more likely to buy organic frozen foods; pasta (30% more likely); sauces and marinades (28% more likely); soups (26% more likely); chocolate (22% more likely); and breakfast cereal (17% more likely) (Packaged Facts, 2013b).

Food Technology Magazine, April 2013: Read the full article (this article after a period is available only to subscribers)

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