Lempert: Boomers, Men Will Shape Food Trends

Baby-Boomer-Grocery-ShoppingThe buying power of Baby Boomers and the increasing roles of men in food preparation and shopping are among the trends that will most affect food makers and retailers in 2012, according to “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert.

Here are some highlights from Lempert’s 2012 top 10 food trends, as summarized in his Food, Nutrition & Science blog, with links to recent, relevant Marketing Daily articles:

  • Boomers dominate food spending.  Boomers are enjoying longer lifespans, and will control 52% of the $706 billion spent on groceries by 2015, making them the largest food influencers and purchasers. Products and marketing approaches will increasingly reflect Boomers’ demand for foods with health and wellness benefits and fondness for “nostalgic” themes and celebrities. One recent example: Fiber One’s Cheech & Chong videos campaign for its new 90-calorie brownies. 
  • Men are sharing the cooking and shopping. The percentage of men involved in home food preparation has about doubled since 2003, to 41%, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stresses Lempert. Some of this is due to high male unemployment. But it also reflects an attitudinal shift, wherein fathers take pride in being caregivers, as well as breadwinners. (Leo Burnett Chicago’s new report on trends transforming Americans also cites the end of “the traditional masculine archetype.”) In short, it’s no longer just mothers who are dealing with the challenges of preparing healthful yet kid-friendly meals -- often while juggling the demands of jobs/careers.
  • Inflation drives new cost-saving strategies. Higher input costs and increased exports will continue to push U.S. food prices up in 2012 and beyond, ensuring continued use of now-routine savings tactics such as coupons, loyalty cards/rewards, careful shopping lists, shifting to private-label goods, and doing more shopping at discounters and other non-traditional grocery retailers, says Lempert.

In addition, he sees consumers increasingly cutting back on costly meats and seafood by augmenting recipes with whole-wheat pasta, tofu, lentils, brown rice and vegetables, and using mobile devices to calculate cost-per-portion, rather than relying on the byproduct unit prices supplied on shelves. Meanwhile, he says, to better compete, supermarkets will begin offering combination layaway/discount plans for large food purchases, and setting up bargain bins.

  • “Extreme” home cooking gains momentum. Americans won’t just be eating more meals at home; they’ll be priding themselves on “making the most for the least” by shopping, cooking, eating and storing leftovers in bulk, says Lempert. Convenience will to some extent give way to stressing economy and taste, encouraging slow-cooking and group-cooking trends. To fight back, restaurants may offer volume discounts based on the size of dining parties.
  • Group shopping, as well as eating, gains popularity. The growing numbers of Americans running independent businesses, combined with social media and location-based food apps, are making it more desirable and possible to connect with others over meals and to share food shopping, points out Lempert. Communities based on sharing specific food interests, as opposed to demographics, are becoming more common. Two emerging tech trends that will further drive this movement: mobile marketing enhanced by the location, social and camera capabilities of devices (LoSoPhoMo), and apps that offer rewards for groups that shop together.

Supporting Lempert’s observations, a study by Barkley, Service Management Group and The Boston Consulting Group found that fewer Millennials usually shop alone (60% versus 69% of other generations), and that more Millennials shop with family members or adult friends.

  • Increased emphasis on food sourcing and farmers as marketers. “Interest in the farm-to-fork journey has grown considerably, inspired in part by food safety scares and more importantly by a desire to know how the food we are serving our families is being produced,” notes Lempert. The corollary: “A growing number of farmers are leading the conversation by using blogs and social media sites to bring the story of the American farmer to consumers.”

Farmer-driven marketing initiatives featured in Marketing Daily in recent times include the Idaho Dairy Products Commission’s use of online sweeps, coupons and recipes to encourage Floridians to buy more cheese; and Cabot Creamery farmers’ use of blogger and social media networks for contests and community-support programs that enhance brand loyalty, as well as sales.

  • Avoiding added sugars. Given the rates of obesity and diabetes, Americans are becoming more reluctant to consume empty sugar calories (as opposed to naturally occurring sugars in healthy foods). Lempert expects “reduced-sugars” to be the biggest health claim in the coming year, supported by a revised Nutrition Facts Panel that goes beyond just stating the total sugars per serving.

Among related trends: The rapid growth of plant-based (natural) stevia sweeteners (see “Cargill’s Truvia Now #2 Sugar Substitute”), and growing pressure on food makers to reduce sugar levels in kids’ foods, in particular (see “Study: Many Kids’ Cereals Still High in Sugar”).

  • The ethnic food revolution.  Food trucks “more often than not manned by descendants of the actual cuisines and cultures being offered” have paved the way for mainstream food makers and retailers to market authentic ethnic foods and ingredients in affordable, convenient ways, sums up Lempert.
  • Better leveraging the multi-sensory nature of foods. The sounds associated with food and its packaging, as well as foods’ taste, look and texture, influence our eating and buying decisions. In 2012, “multisensory perception will be one of the new ‘food sciences,’ as psychologists and food scientists join forces to design, create and influence the sounds of our foods to convey freshness, taste and even health attributes,” says Lempert.
  • The checkout and shopper-marketing revolutions. Retailers are pushing hard to leverage mobile and other technologies that enable customers to all but skip the front-end checkout process, as well as access customized, transaction-driven offers/rewards and in-depth product information while shopping. As Lempert points out, however, a variety of new (sometimes conflicting) technologies involve major investment decisions for retailers and suppliers.
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