Surprising National Trends for the U.S. 2012

At Bite San Diego, we’re always curious to see what kind of food trends are happening, either locally or nationally. According to Phil Lempert, editor in chief of SupermarketGuru, there are national trends to heed. Below are tidbits on each point Lempert makes.

1. Food prices

This will rise as we see environmental conditions and production costs change. Consumers will opt for ways of reducing the payment by using coupons and shopping at non-traditional food stores. Look for a new option of “lay-away” plans… but for food. This generation is expected to be called the “forever frugal consumer” which will probably have the positive outcome of encouraging consumers to slim down.

2. Never shop or eat alone again

See that group food experiences are increasing with a “let’s meet& eat” mentality. Food trucks tweet their locations and flash food raves assemble underground at midnight. It is about three C’s: connection, conversation and a sense of community.

According to Lempert, one key to success will be embracing LoSoPhoMo – mobile marketing enhanced by the location, social and camera features of mobile devices. Expect the next app updates to include “social rewards” for these groups who shop together – much like the original concept of warehouse clubs – offering steep discounts for its members.

3. The Baby Boomers keep right on truckin’

Lempert states that the generation of 76 million who started turning 65 years old last year will control 52% of the total $706 billion spent on groceries by 2015 – making them the largest food influencers and purchasers. The Baby Boom generation (which comprises shoppers aged 48 to 65) is expected to have a longer average lifespan — 74.1 years for men and 79.5 years for women — and as a result are becoming more interested in those foods and beverages that offer them health and wellness benefits.

 Expect supermarkets to cater to the Boomers, not only by offering the foods, beverages and services to satisfy their growing interest (and need) for health, but to take a good look at the physical shopping experience to make sure that the aisles are wide, to lower the shelves, and most importantly, to make them feel welcome and respected.

 4. Increased Emphasis on the “Farm to Fork” Journey

Last year, we saw more consumers “buy local” but now people are concerned with how food makes it from the farm to the food because of food safety scares and simply how food makes it to our families. Lempert finds statistics worth noting: according to the American Farm Bureau’s 2010 Young Farmers and Ranchers Survey, nearly 99% of farmers and ranchers aged 18 to 35 have access to and use the Internet, and nearly three-quarters of those surveyed have a Facebook page. In September of this year, the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) launched an annual $11 million program designed to open the dialogue with consumers.

Notice how there’s an increase in advertising and television programs starring these real food experts (versus actors pretending to know their food).

5. The end of the checkout lane

Consumers are being more tech-savvy with the self-checkouts by “comparing prices at nearby retailers, cell phone scanners, in-store interactive media devices, QR codes, RFID and mobile coupons that state-of-the-art retailers increasingly deliver on the promise of independent, efficient and information rich store visits. There is even Google Wallet.

Lempert states a change is about to happen where high-tech meets high-touch in a warm and friendly way that reinforces the central community nature and feel of the local supermarket. If you are hesitant to believe, just think back to the last time you saw a phone booth.

6. The ethnic food revolution

Ethnic food trucks are up and coming and are handled by descendants of the actual cuisines and cultures being offered.

As Lempert says, they’ve opened access to these foods they feel passionate about, and they have removed intimidation and expense from the experience of consumer trial, paving the way for food companies and retailers to bring to market authentic ethnic cuisines, recipes and ingredients in a more convenient and affordable way.

7. The new role of the male shopper

More men are home because of the economy and after surveying 1,000 professional fathers from Fortune 500 companies in four different industries, Boston College Center for Work and Family learned that, “Today’s dads associate being a good father just as much with the role of effective caregiver as the traditional role of breadwinner.

8. Eating at home – Xtreme Home Cooking

More people choose to eat at home to save money but now they will be in “food groups to form that cook together, crowd sourcing in the kitchen if you will, with the same primary focus on cost – shopping, cooking, eating and storing leftovers in bulk.”

A new definition for the “value meal” which could extend to quantity discounts at fast food establishments and other restaurants that offer a sizable discount based on the number of diners. Instead of senior discounts, think party of five discounts.

9. How sweet it isn’t

Lempert states that the latest update on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released, and one recommendation surprised many – reducing the amount of added sugars of all kinds (especially in soft drinks.) According to the American Heart Association, adult consumption of added sugars has been on the rise since the 80’s; a whopping 51% in both women and men.

Expect for reduced sugars products to be the biggest health claim in the coming year along with a revised Nutrition Facts Panel.

10. The sound of food

An interesting fact is that multisensory perception will be one of the new “food sciences” in 2012 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. Research is now underway at the Crossmodal Research Laboratory at Oxford University to understand how our brains process the information from each of our different senses (smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch) to form our food experiences. Which no doubt will add yet another dimension to shoppers’ decision making process as to which foods to choose.

To see more details on each section of Lempert’s advice, see the article here.

Visit any of our Bite San Diego tours to notice some of the food trends in person!

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