2011’s Food Trends to Watch

November 23, 2010

The updated USDA dietary guidelines

The updated USDA dietary guidelines – in conjunction with technological advancements and the First Lady’s ‘Let’s Move’ program – will mark 2011 as the year that finally empowers Americans to make permanent, positive changes in their diets. People will stop lasering in on single nutrients and begin approaching food more holistically. Shoppers will circle the aisles seeking foods rich in substance, vitamins, minerals and of course, taste.

The "New" Nutritional Guidelines:
While devoid of any startling recommendations, the guidelines in cooperation with the White House's “Let's Move” program - and technology - finally empowers the population to make changes in their diets. We’re seeing a move away from highlighting or demonizing certain nutrients or ingredients and looking at foods more holistically.

•Look for simplified (in length and language) ingredient statements.
•Expect the produce department to change dramatically as supermarkets and farmers start adding stickers directly on pieces of produce that highlight the meaningful vitamins, minerals, fiber and especially Omega-3’s. 
•All-natural claims are out as shoppers seek more substance about their foods, nutritionally as well as on green issues.

The "New" Customer Service: 
It’s all about Food Apps as technology not only allows for in-store information, but will also be used as the checkout. A scan of the bar code tells you everything you need to know to decide what to buy, and then adds to your list automatically. Expect Instant Messages with specials that last for a maximum of a half-hour targeting your likes and dislikes and offering huge savings. At the checkout, your mobile device "talks" to the self-checkout and downloads your coupons, frequent shopper bonuses and deducts the amount of the bill from your checking account. Also, look for the next generation of restaurant apps that will allow you to pre-order from the restaurant’s menu. As you walk thru the entrance your mobile device will send a message to the kitchen to 'fire' up your food and will take into account how long you would like to wait to be served.

Seafood from the Gulf is the “New” Bacon:
As the Gulf repairs itself, expect an enormous focus and support for the fisherman and seafood from this region. Prepare for more Cajun spiced dishes combined with health messages about seafood. We’ll see a spiritual (and economic) rally that never happened to support New Orleans finally go mainstream as this disaster will ultimately affect all Americans. Look for supermarket retailers to create major themed promotional events that include Mardi Gras, but go well beyond to highlight the Gulf Region as the new epicenter for food (sorry Napa!).

The “New” Vitamin – Vitamin D:
Supported by medical research that shows Vitamin D deficiencies in Americans, look for naturally occurring Vitamin D to be touted everywhere. Also, milk will make a big comeback with kids and adults, and this time around it’s all about "white", as flavored, colored and sweet milks make their way out.

The “New” Soda: 
Look for new beverages to hit the shelves with less carbonation, a blend of Stevia and sugar to keep calories low, and fruit based flavors created using real fruit juices that go well beyond orange and mango into more South American crops like acai. Loaded with naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, expect this beverage to quickly become the favorite amongst aging boomers (who are looking for more natural and healthful ingredients and less carbonation.) Also expect these beverages to become the new alcohol mixers of choice with the younger, 20-something demographic.

The "New" Food Store:
Look for food stores to continue to get smaller (10,000-13,000 sq ft) - as the economy continues to sputter - with less employees, but more affordable mainstream prepared foods and service departments (including pizza, fresh fish and meats.) Look for these stores, owned by both independents and chains, to become pervasive in the hippest downtown areas of Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St Louis, NYC and Miami. They will locate where the new emerging workforce - and the aging baby boomers who are retiring - are moving. At the same time, due to shrinking retail margins and higher wholesale prices, expect closings of major supermarket locations (40,000 sq. ft and above) throughout the country.

The "New" Local is Regional:
As consumers and retailers begin to understand that it is impossible to have all their foods produced within 100 miles of where they live, look for regional foods to emerge that are based on the tastes and culture of the areas they are sold in. Major brands will begin to market special flavors based in limited geographical distribution, the cultural heritage of their customers and using named and sourced "local' ingredients.

The "New" Free Sample:
It goes well beyond a rickety card table and toaster oven. Expect food brands to hit stores and sample products before they hit the market in order to control the new product introduction failure rate. As the economy, impact of store brands and the cost of R&D all converge on the bottom line of brands, expect more meaningful thought and customer input in new food products that are being developed. Forget brand extensions as the CPG companies prepare to battle it out for shopper dollars with true innovations. Expect less new product introductions (last year as measured by Mintel over 17,000) and more successes.

The "New" Social Responsibility:
In 2011 consumer’s will expand recognition of and commitment to social responsibilities - including reducing hunger in the US and abroad, the humane treatment of animals, and policy-related shortages –through a more simplistic approach. Despite the economic downturn and a reduction of charitable contributions on both a consumer and retail level, those hit hardest by the economy will shift giving patterns rather than ceasing giving altogether. On a retail level, there will be a greater emphasis placed on companies and their charitable partnerships. Instead of direct, cash donations to individual charities, 2011 is all about building stronger connections to companies with donations made to charities like Feeding America when you purchase their brands.

What food or supermarket trends are on YOUR radar? Click here to send me an email and share your thoughts which will then be reported and credited in a future column!