The average American spends less than 9% of their income on food, which is the lowest percentage of citizens of any other country, and less than Americans spent back in 1982 (13%). Having experienced the worst drought in 50 years on over 60% of all farmland in the U.S., the USDA has predicted that food prices will continue to rise. Even modest food price increases will affect both retailers and consumers in the coming year.
Snackable mini-meals and frozen foods take center stage in supermarket aisles this year while dads and Millennials get more comfortable and powerful in the kitchen. This year, we predict the most dramatic food changes are not what consumers are eating, but rather who is doing the shopping and how consumers are eating.
The 10 major trends to watch in the food industry:
SNACKING AND MINI-MEALS: Think smaller bites and more frequent eating patterns that reduce overall portion size and increase variety. According to the NPD Group, more than half of Americans snack two to three times per day, while one in five eating occasions is a snack.
MEN IN THE SUPERMARKET, KITCHEN: Men and dads are getting more comfortable and powerful in the kitchen. Look for supermarkets to increase their focus on men in 2013 as they’ve become more active in shopping, meal planning and cooking. According to a June 2012 survey from Cone Communications, more dads than moms (52% compared with 46%) plan meals for the week ahead. Some supermarkets experimented with “man aisles” — look for this concept to expand to multiple locations in the store featuring male-oriented foods, recipes and other promotional tools to make shopping and impulse buy ing more targeted.
EVOLUTION OF FROZEN FOODS: Fewer meals are made from scratch, as many Americans don’t have time to spend in the kitchen. The myth that home-cooked is always more nutritious than frozen has been debunked; marketing extols facts like frozen fruits and vegetables are typically harvested in season and flash frozen — and cost less, reinforcing the FDA statement that there is virtually no nutritional difference between fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables.
THE IMPACT OF MILLENNIALS: In 2013, supermarkets and food companies will cater more toward Millennial consumers with affordable foods that are flavorful and ethnically diverse. Millennials, those born between 1982 and 2001, will represent 19% of the population by 2020, and will have double the buying power for food-at-home. Millennials also love food, and their passionate interest is led by their desire to understand where foods are from, preparation and how food is served. A recent Jefferies Alix Partners study found that Millennials are also deal seekers and are much more focused on finding the lowest price over brand loyalty.
SMART HOME, SMARTPHONE: Smartphones and technology are prevalent in the food industry, but the newest wave of technology includes smartphones that network with kitchen appliances and allow consumers to do everything from checking how much milk they have left in the refrigerator, to turning the oven on from another room. The next generation of mobile apps may determine if fruits and vegetables are ripe, if refrigerated and frozen foods have been kept at the correct temperature farm to freezer, and even test for foodborne bacteria — a personal “food lab” in every shopper’s pocket.
BREAKFAST BECOMES THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY: 90% of U.S. consumers say they eat breakfast every day (NPD Group), but the conversation is shifting to what foods are best to eat for breakfast, and taking breakfast foods into other day parts. Breakfast foods are typically high in protein (e.g., eggs, egg whites, yogurts, milk) and as the nation continues to focus on high protein foods, look for these less expensive proteins to replace the higher priced meats for some meal occasions.
ON-PACKAGE LABELING: 2013 will be a transitional year as on-package claims proliferate and confuse. Look as supermarkets take on the role of gatekeeper and actually demand proof and transparency of claims before they will permit products to be sold on their shelves. The role of retail dietitians will increase as their influence and education become more important to everyday buying decisions. Consumers are reading labels selecting their foods more holistically based on all the “food factors” including taste, ingredients, source and nutritional composition, as well as who is making their food along with an understanding of impact on the environment.
THE ECONOMY — NEW PROTEINS: The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the cost of both beef and chicken will increase by at least 5% due to the 2012 drought and declining supply. A major shift is anticipated in the nation’s protein food supply away from meat-based proteins and shifting to meatless proteins like eggs, nut butters, tofu, beans, legumes, with an increase in awareness and consumption of vegetarian and vegan meals.
SUSTAINABILITY — WE STOP WASTING FOOD: The National Resource Defense Council estimates 40% of food goes uneaten each month in the United States. Not surprisingly, the Eco Pulse Survey from the Shelton Group reports 39% of Americans feel the most “green guilt” for wasting food, almost double the number who feel guilty about not recycling.
BOOMERS — REALITY OF HEALTH CONCERNS: Studies by the NPD Group show that nutrition and healthy eating habits are top meal-planning priorities for Baby Boomers. A recent study by ConAgra Foods found that eating canned tomatoes provides the greatest source of antioxidants to Americans’ diets — more than any other non-starchy vegetable. People who tend to eat low-fat diets rich in fruits and vegetables tend to have a decreased risk of cancer and heart disease. Boomers will focus on their intake of antioxidants as they continue their search for the fountain of youth. Boomers will control more than half the dollars spent on grocery foods by 2015, look for more heart-healthy antioxidant-rich foods including oily fish such as salmon, as well as green tea, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, popcorn, berries and whole grains to take over supermarket shelves.[Source: Lempert, Phil. "The Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2013." 3 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Dec. 2012.]