There are major changes coming to the food industry, or at least for those companies that want to stay economically viable. That’s because, according to various studies on consumer trends, there are significant lifestyle changes that are impacting the way we eat.
Dr. Elizabeth Sloan, contributing editor and consumer trends columnist for Food Technology Magazine, has put together a report illustrating what she feels are the top trends in the food industry. Here are some of the highlights:
Eating Out is Not On The Menu for Millennials
Restaurant dining is dominated by older generations, with the biggest spenders being in the 55- to 64-year-old age group. During the last five years, baby boomers and older have seen a six percent increase in restaurant visits while millennials’ visits dropped by six percent.
One could surmise this disparity comes from a disposable income gap, with millennials struggling as unemployed or underemployed.
Solo Eating Trend Offers Fresh Opportunity
One of the more interesting findings included in Sloan’s report was a jump in eating alone. According to research from the Hartman Group, while many food manufacturers are marketing their products to families, nearly half of all eating is done alone. Those eating alone are more likely to choose fresh or refrigerated meals over frozen.
Fresh or refrigerated meals were up seven percent in 2012 and young adults (18 to 24) were the most likely to buy chilled meals (Food Marketing Institute), up 11 percent in 2011 (Technomic).
Access to Information Feeds Food Ethics
The Internet has made information about food safety much more accessible to the public. It’s certainly played a significant role in what impacts our food purchasing decisions. For instance, 29 percent of consumers said they seek “grass fed” on labels and 35 percent look for “cage-free” (Technomic), information that must have been relegated to hardcore healthy eaters and animal rights people just a few short years ago. No doubt, the GMO conversation will be a larger part of this, too.
Global Food Interests
Maybe one of the more peculiar findings was the interest in international foods, but as a hybrid of American foods. Think Indian naan bread as a fast food sandwich, or Asian flavor-inspired syrups. Our Sriracha Oven Fries and Naan Pizza recipes would be delicious examples.
A Growing Snack Culture
As eating trends toward more snacking, consumers are demanding smaller items that can be eaten on the go. According to research from IRi, 60 percent of people will snack simply for the enjoyment of the food, but 34 percent said they want their snack to satisfy their immediate hunger.
When considering how food can help resolve or avoid certain health issues, the concerns are as follows:
- Maintaining/Improving heart health (75%)
- Providing more energy (70%)
- Avoiding empty calories (67%)
- Digestive health (66%)
- Improving immunity (65%)
- Preventing cancer (64%)
- Maintaining/Improving mind health (64%)
- Building physical strength (61%)
- Building bone density (60%)
- Avoiding processed foods (59%)