4 Surprising Consumer Trends Food Retailers Should Know

Consumer Food TrendsWe can all recall a litany of consumer food trends of years past, from shunning carbohydrates, sodium or fat, to obsessing over the latest “superfood.” But as much as consumer preferences ebb and flow, they’re an important bellwether of buying habits and an opportunity for food retailers to cater to influential markets.

What’s more, by stepping back and viewing the trajectory of these trends over time, you can see larger shifts that could have long-term impact on the food industry. Today, consumer eating preferences reflect a busy, but increasingly informed public struggling to balance convenience with more healthy lifestyle choices. Let’s look at some of the latest consumer trends restaurants and grocers can tap into to build enduring customer loyalty.

1. Meal Planning

As more people prioritize cooking at home, efficiency is paramount. This is why many are strategically planning meals for an entire week so they can make a single shopping trip and dedicate one—sometimes intensive—food prep day, when they make large batches of food and portion them out in containers for the week. Think of it as grab-and-go food service, only homemade.

Meal planners love crockpot meals, casseroles and versatile ingredients that deliver the most bang for their buck. Grocers can target them with marketing content that highlights ways to repurpose common staples. Provide meal-planning resources like easy recipes, ready-made weekly shopping lists and calendars. In stores, highlight packaged goods and pre-chopped ingredients that can lighten some of the meal prep burden.

2. Juicing

The juicing trend is going strong—the cold-pressed juice market is valued at $100 million—offering a fast and easy way to consume more nutrient-dense produce.

Juice fans want reassurance that the best-quality organic fruits and vegetables are used in their daily juices, since it’s that pop of drinkable vitamins and nutrients that draws many to juicing. Highlight the quality, freshness and sources of the produce that goes into fresh juices you make in your restaurant or store. To target consumers who juice at home, grocers can bundle fruit and veggie combinations together, accompanied with easy juicing recipes.

Today’s savvy juicers are aware juicing isn't a magioc bullet for weight loss, so focus promotional messaging instead on convenience, freshness and quality.

3. Macronutrient dieting

Some consumers are calibrating their macronutrient intake with their exercise regimen to maximize weight loss and muscle gain, an approach trumpeted by influential nutrition bloggers and the bodybuilding community.

“‘Macro’ refers to the three macronutrients—carbohydrates, protein and fat—our bodies require for energy and proper function,” writes Lizzie Furh. “A macro-based diet looks at the percentage combination of the carbs, protein and fat in your diet instead of calorie counts alone.”

Restaurants can cater to this crowd by highlighting macronutrients in menu items. Call out healthy meals that are protein- and carb-rich as good energy-boosting options for exercise days. Grocers can include macronutrient percentages on prepared and fresh-pack meals, along with pointing out healthy protein, carb and fat sources in whole and packaged food items. Food retailers can also use blogs, eBooks and other marketing materials to share educational tools for adopting the macro approach.

4. Meatless Monday

The Meatless Monday movement encourages households to nix meat one night a week. Since many people like the idea of consuming less animal protein and saturated fat, eliminating it once a week is an achievable goal. Seventy-six percent of U.S. households occasionally serve meat alternatives (protein other than meat, poultry or seafood) for dinner, and 44 percent do so one to three times per week, according to the 2015 Power of Meat report.

Food retailers can join in by running creative vegetarian specials on Mondays. Grocery stores can share easy vegetarian recipes with email subscribers and social media followers to coincide with Meatless Monday meal planning. Heightened veggie interest also offers another opportunity to showcase suppliers that share health-minded consumers’ value of nutritious, sustainably grown, high-quality produce.

When you show that your business is up-to-date on the latest consumer preferences, customers feel welcome and understood. Explore ways to incorporate these trends into your products, services and messaging to connect with customers and keep them coming back.

Staying on trend with food fads will help grow brand awareness. Protect this reputation by monitoring your supply chain. Learn more in our free guide, Selling the C-Suite on Supply Chain Traceability Software.

The Evolution of Trust in the Food Industry

Although only one-third of the public thinks the agriculture community and food companies are transparent, a new FoodThink report states that nearly two-thirds of consumers want more information about how their food is produced.  

The latest research appears in "Evolving Trust in the Food Industry" from Sullivan Higdon & Sink (SHS) FoodThink. The white paper contains insights into Americans' knowledge and trust of the food industry and how those perceptions have changed from 2012 to present.

"Food marketers should know that consumer perceptions of transparency in the food industry are consistently improving but there is plenty of room to grow," said Erika Chance, senior FoodThink researcher. "The good news is that consumers are turning to food companies and grocers for more information because they do have an interest in learning more about the food they eat."

Chick-fil-A Goes "Behind the Menu" on Instagram

Chick-fil-A is tapping the popular social media platform Instagram to share a "behind the menu" experience that promotes balanced-meal choices by educating customers about the chain's food transparency, according to a company press release. 

"We're constantly looking for new and innovative ways to leverage our social channels for our fans," said Emily Randall, Social and Digital Marketing at Chick-fil-A. "Through this new level of menu transparency, every guest can find their own balance, as that means something different to everyone."

How the Definition of Food Safety is Changing

The definition of food safety in the consumer's eye is evolving with food safety concerns such as traceability and labeling gaining more and more importance. A recent national survey of 5,000 consumers that asked about food buying decisions showed changing attitudes about food safety. People report wanting more transparency from food producers and retailers about food safety issues, according to the 2015 Food Value Equation Survey

3 Things Consumers Want to Know About Your Food

As a food industry professional, we don’t have to lecture you on the importance of quality products. After all, it’s your passion for healthy, sustainable food that likely led you to your career in the first place. Every day, you strive to make sure the items your brand sells to consumers not only meet federal requirements, but also exceed your company’s own high expectations. You know your dedication to excellence means success and consumer loyalty.

But, here’s the thing: Today’s consumers want more. Sure, they hope your brand lives up to its promises. But they really want food chain transparency. And if they’re not getting it from you, they’re searching for it from other sources.

To help you build an arsenal of information for your prospects and customers, consider these top items consumers want to know.