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10 Macro Consumer Food Trends

01/13/2014

10 Macro Consumer Food Trends

In 2013, our Consumer Trend Report series covered a wide array of key foodservice, consumer and dining occasions. Pulling together the menu, consumer and industry trends from the breadth of data discussed in these comprehensive studies provides a unique window into the macro trends shaping the foodservice usage, attitudes and behaviors of today’s consumers that will continue to influence the marketplace in 2014.

The Top 10 overall themes that emerged from our Consumer Trends Report research can help guide your business through today’s competitive foodservice landscape.

Taken together, the data points to a consumer who is increasingly demanding, particularly regarding expectations toward food and beverage quality, level of innovation and the overall restaurant experience offered.

One: Inclination for customization – Today’s consumers demand greater control over the dining experience and increasingly prioritize the ability to tailor not just their meal but other elements of the occasion as well to meet a wide array of needs.

Implication – Providing a range of menu and service styles – build-your-own options, flexible menus, the ability to choose ingredients or sides, late-night hours, etc. – broadens appeal and strengthens the value equation.

Two: Consumers Balance Health and Indulgence – Although consumers increasingly seek better-for-you fare that they can feel good about, indulgent options still spark consumers’ interest.

Implication – Offering both healthy and indulgent fare on the same menu or even the same plate (i.e., a side of Greek yogurt with a dessert waffle or a turkey burger topped with onion rings) appeals to a broad base and minimizes the veto vote.

Three: Up(scaling) the Ante – Consumers’ demands for an upscale experience have increased in recent years, with this emphasis encompassing both food and ambiance.

Implication – Operators can compete for traffic by positioning themselves as offering an upscale experience at an affordable price; consumers demand higher quality but may not be willing to break the budget to get it.

Four: Interest in How It’s Made – Consumers exhibit a growing preference for artisanal food and beverage that is prepared from scratch onsite; they perceive these items to offer enhanced taste, quality and even healthfulness.

Implication – All mealparts are fair game for handmade items – from sausage ground on-premise to sodas made in-house to desserts made from scratch. Housemade items may also garner higher price thresholds.

Five: Show Me Something New – Innovation in the form of unexpected ingredients, mash-ups that combine familiar items in new ways, and the use of traditional flavors at atypical times piques consumers’ interest and demand for variety and new experiences.

Implication – Consumers are responding to the application of breakfast and dessert flavors across the menu; updated nostalgic desserts; and all-day gourmet burgers and sides with a “wow” factor.

Six: Fusing Flavors – Consumers are increasingly interested in trying new flavors, often in the form of a fusion of two familiar flavor notes – such as sweet and spicy.

Implication – Flavor pairing is relevant across all dayparts and mealparts, from breakfast to beverages to dessert; consumers say that sweet notes pair well with the greatest variety of flavors.

Seven: Whatever, Whenever – With the rise of snacking, the idea of segmented dayparts has faded, and consumers are more apt to purchase an item that fits their needs regardless of daypart or menu part.

Implication – Operators and suppliers can take advantage of daypart and mealpart blurring by cross-promoting items for a variety of dayparts and mealparts, rather than designating certain items as breakfast, appetizers, sides or desserts.

Eight: Turn Up the Heat – As spicy flavors have become more prevalent, consumers’ preference for these options has also increased, particularly for sauces and dips.

Implication – Spiciness can be achieved in many ways; including menuing ethnic dishes or incorporating global flavors and offering sauces and condiments at different spice levels to cater to consumers’ varying preferences.

Nine: Ethnic Goes American – Consumers looking for unique options have increasingly sought ethnic fare. But “ethnic” no longer refers solely to fare from beyond US borders: regional American flavors are finding an appreciative audience.

Implication – Regional American foods featuring homegrown flavors are a viable avenue for differentiation – for example, in the form of regional styles of barbecue sauce or themed burgers reflecting regional preferences.

Ten: Pliable Proteins – Consumers show interest in alternative proteins – particularly for burgers and breakfast meats. Premium, healthy or exotic options can convey both higher quality and “better-for-you” positioning.

Implication – Offering alternative proteins can neutralize the veto vote in a diverse dining party, appeal to a diet-conscious demographic, and pique consumers’ interest with options they may not find elsewhere.

Source: Technomic

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