Grocery shoppers, according to food trend reports from industry experts, want the convenience of choosing from up to 60,000 items in one supermarket and enjoying a pleasant experience sorting through them. We want to eat healthier while indulging a sweet tooth occasionally, and market researchers pay close attention to these and other consumer desires.
“We’re always striving to better understand our customers’ passions when it comes to food,” says Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, Whole Foods Market’s chief marketing officer. Millennials, especially, are more likely to spend more money on high-quality food, the company’s research says.
Here are some top marketing trends for 2020. We interviewed Ernest Baskin, food marketing assistant professor at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, an expert in consumer behavior and marketing research, and consulted research from Whole Foods Market, market researcher Innova Market Insights and other industry sources.
1. Convenience foods
Supermarkets are upping their food-on-the-run game. Expect much more than ready-made sandwiches and rotisserie chicken. We’ll see healthier and more diverse to-go meals, such as eggplant Parmesan and single-serve refrigerated snacks, like hard-boiled eggs with savory toppings, pickled vegetables and drinkable soups.
Two-person meal kits, which take the shop and chop out of meal prep, sell in supermarkets for $12 to $15. Look for selections such as curried beef, Italian sausage soup, Korean tacos or Caprese chicken over warm spinach salad.
Albertsons (including Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market and Haggen) is developing its Plated label into an in-store “culinary” brand that emphasizes lifestyle, convenience and cooking experience, aimed at loyal, high-value customers, a company official says.
2. Plant-based foods
Proteins from plants are a culinary trend and grocers are taking notice. Dole Food, for example, says it is adding plant-based proteins to salad kits for “a more satiating salad that eats like a meal.”
Kroger (which you might also know as City Market, Dillons, Foods Co, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, Harris Teeter’s, King Soopers, QFC and Ralphs, among others) is rolling out 58 new plant-based items under its Simple Truth brand.
3. Meat-vegetable blends
People who eat mostly vegetables yet enjoy some beef and fish may be intrigued by products blending ground meat with mushrooms and other vegetables, lowering fat, cholesterol and even prices. The Lika Plus Burger uses 75% ground beef with 25% Lika Plus (wheat, mushroom, barley yeast and water).
At home, you might make your own blended meatballs, with beef, quinoa and vegetables. Mushrooms, whose chewing texture is similar to meat, are even popping up in jerky.
4. Food stories
Consumers like learning “the story” behind foods, to discern if products they buy align with their values. Food makers think you’ll trust a brand if you learn about its benefits and production.
They are focusing, for example, on products’ taste, uniqueness and sustainability efforts, their origins and how they are used traditionally. In the Seattle area, QFC supermarkets (a Kroger company) will use hydroponic technology to grow parsley, cilantro and other greens right in the store.
5. Regenerative agriculture
We want our food to support farming and grazing practices that restore degraded soil, improve biodiversity and increase carbon capture for long-lasting environmental benefits. Grass-fed beef exemplifies this trend.
Products that experiment by crossing cultures offer consumers a low-key adventure and a chance to sample new flavors, according to Dawn Foods, a baking company.
This trend embraces hybrid flavors, category fusions and mixed taste profiles — doughnut ice cream cones and cold brew lattes, for a couple of examples.
7. New flours
Home bakers are intrigued by new “super” flours delivering protein and fiber, such as teff flour (used in Ethiopian injera, a flatbread) or flours from fruits, seeds and vegetables, such as banana, coconut and cauliflower.
The trend is found in ready-made products, too — Late July brand Tortilla Chips are made with tigernut (a gluten-free root vegetable) flour, for instance.
Indulgent sweets give consumers a momentary escape from our always-on, busy lifestyles, says Dawn Foods. Treats can help elevate your mood or offer a moment of relaxation.
9. CBD products
Hemp-derived CBD-infused products are spreading to retailers across the country. Cannabidiol, or CBD — an ingredient in hemp, a cousin to the marijuana plant — is used in a variety of non-intoxicating remedies for health issues. Though it’s a component in medical marijuana, CBD itself does not cause a “high,” says this Harvard Health Blog article. (That effect comes from the component THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.)
How mainstream has this trend become? Here’s a clue: Winn Dixie and Bi-Lo sell 65 CBD items, including topicals such as oils and ointments, supplement pills and pet products.
Through a distribution deal in the Northeast U.S., you’ll soon see Docklight’s Marley Mellow Mood CBD-Infused Tea, Marley CBD-Infused Chocolate, Goodship CBD-Infused Confections and Irisa CBD-Infused Sparkling Water in an array of stores, from pharmacies to supermarkets.
10. Zero-waste cooking
The environmental impact of food (or “foodprints”) will sway more purchases as consumers become aware that 570,000 tons of fresh, useable meat and poultry products are thrown away every year globally, says marketing agency THP. Discarded products can be used in sustainable and creative ways.
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are still the hottest poultry product in grocery stores, but watch for canapes, cicerones and nachos using crispy chicken skin as the dishes’ base.
Kroger says it is trying to help you reduce home food waste by simplifying date labels on its house brands of dairy, deli, bakery, and fresh and frozen products. “Use By” indicates the deadline for when a food is no longer safe to eat; “Best If Used By” indicates the deadline for guaranteed freshness but does not affect the product’s safety, the company says.
11. No-alcohol distilled drinks
“Zero-proof” cocktail alternatives re-create classic cocktail flavors using distilling methods typically reserved for alcohol, says Whole Foods. They’re often used with mixers.
“Think alt-gin for gin and tonics and botanical-infused faux spirits for a faux martini,” says Whole Foods. You can also enjoy hops-infused sparkling waters and zero-proof aperitifs.
The ketogenic (“keto”) diet is a popular low-carb weight-loss trend, Web MD says, adding:
“When you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body eventually runs out of fuel (blood sugar) it can use quickly.”
Look for keto-diet foods in supermarkets. “Everything is keto this year,” Tom Vierhile, vice-president of strategic insights, North America for Innova Market Insights, tells Food Business News.
13. Global tastes
Ethnic foods from around the world are gaining favor, particularly with younger folks who enjoy street foods, says marketing specialist THP. Grocers are noticing and expanding their offerings in Southeast Asian flavors.
Keep an eye out for mainstreaming of Vietnamese specialties such as bún bò huế, a rice vermicelli and beef soup, or cha ca, fish marinated with turmeric, fried with heaps of dill and spring onion and served over rice noodles with peanuts and a dipping sauce.
Likewise, Whole Foods says West African flavors are trending. The cuisine uses tomatoes, onions and chili peppers, often with peanuts, ginger and lemongrass. Stores may carry superfoods such as moringa and tamarind, and grains such as sorghum, fonio, teff and millet.
14. Seed and nut butters
Ready to spread Watermelon Seed Butter on your toast? That’s one vegan spread Whole Foods thinks you may want to try. The spreads tout their paleo- and keto-friendly attributes and promote Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil certification and nuts grown with low environmental impact.
Look for macadamia nut and roasted pumpkin seed spreads and Milkadamia Butta-Bing Butta-Boom Buttery Spread.
15. Tracking our habits
Supermarkets are tracking your shopping habits more than ever before. Loyalty programs already serve up promotions and coupons based on buying history, online behavior and more.
But they can go deeper. Say you are watching your sugar consumption. An online dashboard might show you what you ate, your monthly sugar intake based on the nutritional information of products you buy, as well as which products had the most sugar.
16. Speedier shopping
Your time is precious, grocers know. Albertsons, for one example, is adding self-checkout stands and expanding its grocery pick up and delivery services, allowing customers to order and pay online and drive up so employees can load groceries into a customer’s car.
Also, “those who engage with us online spend substantially more than those who do not,” Albertsons president and CEO Vivek Sankaran said recently discussing company earnings in a report by Supermarket News.
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