Tactile food will be a “secret weapon” in 2018, Phil Lempert predicts

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Tactile food will be a “secret weapon” in 2018, Phil Lempert predicts
Catering to consumer demand for “experiences,” food and beverage manufacturers in 2018 will make their products more “tactile” in a way that goes beyond Instagramable unicorn colors and unexpected black, predicts Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert.

“If I had to point to one trend that I believe will have the biggest impact on industry, it is tactile. The sense of touch,”​ he said during his recent Food and Retail Trends Forecast.

“Food is so tactile. There is probably no profession that is more tactile than being a chef,”​ he explained. “Now, let’s expand this into all of our senses. Think of multisensory as the new secret weapon both with products and in store.”

The coming physical, auditory and visual connection to food is in response to the “food information overload”​ that consumers are experiencing as many try to learn everything they can about products, how they are made and how they impact their health and wellness, Lempert said.

“Now, we need grounding,”​ he said, adding, “over the past year or so we saw the first step: visual. Unicorn colored foods and black foods, and now the connection moves even deeper.”

For example, autonomous sensory meridian response is emerging as an effective marketing strategy in the food industry. By playing with acoustics, such as slurping, chewing, crunching and crinkling, consumers can engage more with their foods and beverages – creating memorable experiences that will keep brands at the top of their mind.

The food scientist behind the new snack brand P-nuff Crunch baked peanut puffs​ is an early adopter of this trend. He made his puffs extra crunchy “to awaken the senses”​ and dial back the need for added fat, sugar and salt that some foods rely on to engage consumers.

The three-dimensional, playful Star Wars shapes in popchips’ Galaxy Puffs​ is another example of a brand bringing extra sensory experiences to eating.

Another potential marketing strategy capitalizing on this trend are YouTube influencers who magnify the sounds of the foods and beverages they are consuming so that viewers can go on an auditory journey with them, Lempert said.

Also on YouTube, the rise of “un-boxing videos,” could be an avenue for brands to capitalize on the multisensory trend. Better-for-you subscription snack company Love With Food counts on the media buzz some of its recipients create when they film themselves unboxing each month’s delivery​. Their initial reactions to the snacks inside can raise brand awareness not only for the delivery service, but for participating brands as well.

Similarly, Lempert predicts, in-store demonstrations will step-up their game to capitalize on this trend by swapping out paper plates and plastic cups for “beautifully displayed presentations that expand the retail experience and go far beyond giving out a free morsel of food.”

The poke bowl franchises “popping up everywhere, offering a variety of colors and textures”​ is another example of how food presentation is changing the competitive quick service retail and fast food landscape, he said.

Finally, he said, 3D printing could bring the trend into the future as an engaging way to make food without waste. 

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