Mobile devices continue to fuel consumer demand for increased transparency; more convenience; and quick, easy opportunities to be social. Expect continued emphasis on technology and social media as trend-savvy, authenticity-minded Millennials start having families of their own, along with a call for healthy, convenient foods from the growing influencer segment known as IndieWomen, according to “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert’s top consumer trends for 2014.
Lempert teamed with ConAgra Foods on a SupermarketGuru.com survey of a panel of roughly 110,000 consumers. Lempert also visits 10 to 15 supermarkets each week to observe trends at store level.
New on-pack technology?
Time-strapped consumers continue to rely on technology for the sake of saving time, relying more on their mobile phones when grocery shopping to keep lists and find recipes. A recent online ConAgra Foods survey found that one third of consumers reported using their mobile phone while at the grocery store.
Perhaps resulting from such easy access to information, consumers also want more information than ever from brands and retailers, which paves the way for exciting new packaging technology.
“QR codes really haven’t taken hold,” Lempert told FoodNavigator-USA.
“There all different readers for them, and they’re too cumbersome for shoppers. We know smarter technology exists now on smartphones. So rather than having to go onto a search engine or click on a QR code, we’re going to see clever use of new technologies by brands in the near future.”
These might include augmented reality apps (which still require a mobile app download, but result in a richer user experience), SMS shortcodes, and bluetooth/near field communication, which are still in nascent stages but show promise for ad-to-mobile-device communication.
Millennials put the social in social media
The Millennial generation, and more specifically their fascination with social media, has all but revolutionized the way food manufacturers and brands interact with consumers.
“It’s no longer whether it’s a brand or retailer dictating to consumer what to do,” Lempert told FoodNavigator-USA. “It’s more—and we learned this from social media—more of a collaboration. Consumers don’t want to be told, they want to be part of.”
Lempert adds that he plans to keep a close eye on this food-obsessed segment as they start to have children.
“We’re watching very carefully, as Millennials get older, get better paying jobs, have families, and start paying down their college debt, how will the older part of the generation evolve food-wise?” he said. “We already know Millennials are very passionate about food, and they don’t want to eat same thing twice in their lifetime.
"As they start creating families and homes, it will be interesting to see what’s going to happen in the kitchen at home. We are seeing them cook even more at home than any other generation has, and we expect we will see sales at restaurants continue to decline in the coming years.”
Strong potential in 'semi-homemade' frozen meals with the IndieWoman
At almost 31 million strong, the “IndieWoman” is poised to become a major food influencer. These women are 27 and older, live alone and have no children. Their “family unit” is made up largely of other IndieWomen. They have strong affiliations to brands and love to hunt for bargains, according to a Milo.com survey. Collectively, they spend about $50 billion on food and beverages each year.
“The implication for food manufacturers with regard to IndieWomen is huge,” Lempert told FNU, emphasizing the role of multi-serve frozen meals.
“We’re going to see a growing demand for—for lack of a better term—semi- homemade meals made with fresh, high-quality ingredients. IndieWomen have sophisticated palates, and they don’t have a lot of time. So they’ll be looking for something they can put a finishing touch on and impress their friends with, or something they can cook together.”
Other trends for manufacturers to watch on Lempert's top 10 list include:
- Better-for-you snacking;
- Brands reaching consumers locally through cause initiatives (62% of consumers surveyed by ConAgra want to support companies that donate to key social causes);
- Increased focus on breakfast (Mintel reports that consumers are looking more at high-protein foods like eggs, meats and Greek yogurt, as well as whole grain products);
- International restaurant flavors at home (the surge of Latino and Asian populations and growing consumer interest in variety is creating growth opportunities for South American, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines).