Societal Shifts Shape Future of Foodservice

Coca-Cola webinar maps changes ahead for grocerants to succeed

April 17, 2018

Grocerant operators can leverage a trove of actionable insights revealed by The Coca-Cola Company, in its recent webinar on macro forces and trends shaping consumers’ food demand and the retail foodservice industry.

Speakers Chris Startt, Director of Foodservice Insights, and Randy Raymond, Director of Retail Foodservice Strategy, at Coca-Cola North America, connected significant shifts in American society to the eating experiences consumers demand, and shared culinary, operational and marketing tips to help the growing grocerant sector advance to where customers are heading. 

The webinar, Foodservice Trends: Macro Forces & Consumer Trends are Shaping the Future of Restaurants, was the second in The Great Grocerant webinar series series moderated by SupermarketGuru Phil Lempert, who said, “As shopper needs and expectations evolve, our industry must also adapt.  Understanding trends can help you connect with your shoppers and build loyalty.” 

Three macro forces

The journey to successful, targeted grocerant offerings starts with an understanding of three macro forces shaping the future of foodservice - demographics, technology use, and political, economic and social uncertainties. 

A few highlights of each, as outlined by Mr. Startt:

Demographics.  2016 saw the slowest population growth since The Great Depression, and it’s expected that more than 1 in 5 Americans will be over the age of 65 by 2040.  Slow population growth and an aging consumer limits growth, consumption and spending power.  The U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority by 2044. There is growing diversity in household structures. Urbanization accelerates the need for convenience.  Income bifurcation creates polarized purchasing behavior, requiring marketers to consider value in new ways.

Technology.  We’re more digital natives. By 2025, 44% of the U.S. population will have been born after the Internet was created. We’re more connected in our daily lives through technology, such as social media and connected devices. We can more easily access information to make decisions, and use Business Intelligence to explore and develop insights to uncover new opportunities. We’re only beginning to see automation’s impact on labor efficiencies.

Uncertainty.  Political, economic and social volatility are becoming more dynamic as businesses, governments, economies and societies are more interconnected.  Limited resources and more volatile pricing create supply-chain complexity, as consumers demand more sustainability and transparency in our food supply. 

How consumers are changing as a result

Consumer lifestyles, aspirations and expectations are evolving in these ways, he noted:

Lifestyles.  Technology interacts with brands and purchases at a single click today.  There is an omni-channel blend of physical and digital paths to purchase – digital influences 31 cents of every dollar spent in the food and beverage category, and this is growing.  Social connectivity lets us learn about and interact with new brands. Yet busy, stressed consumers seek ways to simplify their lives through e-commerce, delivery, home meals kits and retail foodservice.

Aspirations.  People purposefully seek balanced well-being, not just physical health.  We’re also more purposeful about sustainability – 3 in 4 Millennials are willing to pay more for a sustainable offering. While we’re value-conscious, premium foods and beverages have grown over the past two years.

Expectations.  78% of Millennials would rather spend money on experiences than things, leading to growth in travel and live events.  As both new travel and social media expose us to new cultures, we often try more ethnic cuisines. We also reward brands that treat us with honesty, openness and respect. 

Mr. Startt urged retail foodservice operators to think strategically about how their outlets could “continually evolve to meet the needs and expectations of an aging, more diverse, and more urban population. How do we stay on pace, or catch up, using technology as a tool for improving or simplifying the guest experience, or making operations more efficient? How do we meet guest needs related to value and their desires related to experience, sustainability and authenticity?”

These thoughts set the stage for the rest of both speakers’ observations on foodservice industry trends, tangible ways grocerants could satisfy customers, and what a restaurant of the future might look like.  The Great Grocerant invites readers to continue reading companion stories in this April issue and the May issue on the webinar’s data-rich content.  Also, if you missed the initial webinar on February 28, feel free to register here for the recording.

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