The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Top Ten Food Trends 2013

Top Ten Food Trends 2013

Shoppers and Trends

December 23, 2012


Last year we predicted how weather conditions around the globe would affect crop yields and impact food production and prices; little did we know just how big that impact would be. 2012 brought us the worst drought in 50 years and created havoc on over 60% of all farmland here in the United States. There is little doubt that, just as the USDA has predicted, food prices will continue to rise for many years to come. The average American spends less than nine percent of their income on food, which is the lowest percentage of citizens of any other country, and less than Americans spent back in 1982 (13%). Yet even modest food price increases will affect many.

The passionate interest in foods being led by the Millenials will continue; led by their desire to understand food heritage, where foods come from, food preparation and how food is served; but with a twist. Millenials are deal seekers: over 86% seek the lowest everyday prices for foods. Almost one-third of Millenials (50+ million people born between 1978 and 1994) have difficulty affording their weekly groceries as compared to 22% of the general population. Millenials are the most ethnically diverse generation in our nation’s history – approximately 19% are Latino, 13% are black, four percent are Asian, one in five have an immigrant parent and one in 10 have a parent who is not a U.S. citizen. Clearly they are the foundation for the rise and desire for ethnic and more flavorful foods. This generation will be the most educated with 63% predicted to have or expect to graduate college by the year 2016. However, many report low paying or no jobs and a quarter of them have moved back home with their parents.

Food prices will also have an enormous impact on America’s “middle class” (defined as households with incomes from $38,000 to $118,000 per year) that has shrunk from 61% of the population in 1971 to 51% in 2011; and has seen their net worth plummet almost 40% to $77,300 from 2007 to 2010. As of August 2012, over 45 million Americans were enrolled in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) and receive monthly benefits.

All is not doom and gloom however, as we have experienced a comeback in supermarket services. More retailers are investing in loyalty programs and apps that reward their best shoppers with personalized discounts, on-site dietitians, in-store pubs and dining, and are generally sprucing up the retail environment. We can also expect more retail consolidation as the traditional supermarket struggles and shoppers expand their food shopping to alternative sources including drug chains, dollar stores and discounters. Supermarkets lost a full 15% share of volume to these and other competitors since the year 2000, sounding an alarm bell and wake up call to the industry that it is time to focus on a deeper understanding of what shoppers want.

Elementary school students returned to school this fall to find more healthy choices in the lunch line and with it comes a re-education and empowerment for a new generation designed to have these students not only eat healthier while at school, but also understand why eating this way is so important. School meals must meet new federal nutrition standards requiring more whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, reduced sodium, reduced calories, imposing strict limits on saturated and trans fats, less sodium, less calories and with fat free or 1% milk. The hope is that these modified behaviors translate to eating at home and to all family members.

Trend #1

Sustainability: We Stop Wasting Food

The National Resource Defense Council estimates that about 40 percent of all food here in the United States goes uneaten – that’s about $165 billion wasted each year; and costs the average family of four between $1,350 and $2,275 a year. To paint an even better picture, that's about 20 pounds of food wasted per person each month. As we have seen America’s waistlines grow, so has the amount of food we waste. In fact, NRDC estimates we discard 50% more food than we did back in the 1970s.

The just-released Eco Pulse Survey from the Shelton Group reports that 39% of Americans feels “the most green guilt” for wasting food (that's almost double the number who feel guilty about non-recycling or forgetting to bring their own bags to the store). Now comes the time to educate and empower supermarkets, food companies and consumers to think about this problem and to change our behaviors.

In the UK, where a public awareness program called “Love Food Hate Waste” began five years ago, over 50 of the country’s leading food retailers and CPG brands have committed to reduce waste in operations and supply chain. In 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution to reduce food waste by half by the year 2020.

McKinsey Consulting recently reported that one action that could help reduce waste would be the standardization and clarification of expiration dates on foods. One waste reduction organization estimates that just this one “fix” could prevent up to 20% of food waste at home.

Trend #2

Health & Wellness: Snacking & Mini-Meals Take the Spotlight and We Discover the Correct Portion Size

Snacking may be associated with a more nutrient dense diet, according to researchers at Auburn University and Beijing University. The study, published in the February 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that total fruit, whole fruit, whole grains, oils, sodium, and milk scores were all positively associated with snacking frequency. Few studies have examined the role of snacking on overall diet quality, and previous literature has only focused on the contribution of snacking to daily intakes of single nutrients. Snacking has gotten a bad rap, and that is about to change. This study is the first to look at how snacking contributes to the overall quality of individual’s diets. In this study, snacking was not associated with poorer overall diet quality, and did contribute to a slightly more nutrient-dense diet. The study reported that, "A key finding is that people who eat snacks have healthier diets.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported research that followed 30 thousand men over a sixteen-year period and found that those who ate just two meals a day had a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes.

We predict that 2013 will see a smaller bites/more frequent eating pattern that reduces overall portion sizes and increases variety. Led by the ubiquitous Millenials, who crave flexible menus with many choices of appetizers and small plates, look for snacking occasions to increase throughout the day. Currently just over half of Americans snack two to three times a day; as work schedules become more hectic and more flexible these mini-meals will increase across all generations. In addition, Hispanics, the fastest growing population and is projected to account for 30.2% of the total U.S. population by the year 2050, are more likely than non-Hispanics to incorporate snacks throughout the day—by a 23% to 15% margin. They are also likelier to consume snacks while at work.

According to the NPD Group, morning snacking has “shown the greatest growth of any eating occasion over the past decade.” Morning snacks have increased by an average of 22 snacks per person in that period. More frequent snacking may also reinforce the need to reduce the size of portions at all mealtimes, as those hunger craving

Trend #3

Health & Wellness: The Boomer Reality of Diabetes, High Blood Pressure & Heart Disease

Building on our 2012 prediction of the importance of the Boomer population who will control just over half the dollars spent on grocery foods in 2015 ($706 million each year), serving the food needs of this generation will take new approaches; especially keeping these consumers who seek quality products, are brand loyal and not particularly price-sensitive healthier longer.

According to Packaged Facts, “When they eat, they’re looking for balance, and they understand the concept of forgoing one thing in order to enjoy something else….Authority avoiders since the ‘60s and ‘70s, today’s Boomers want to…eat what they want and how much they want, when and where they want it."

Research from Canada and the United States—nations where many Boomers have similar lifestyles and life issues—reflect deliberate thinking about how they eat. Studies by NPD Group in both countries show that nutrition and healthy eating habits are top priorities for the Boomers, who are more concerned than any other age group about nutrition when planning a meal. Seventy-two percent of Canadians age 65+ regard nutrition as important as taste. Double the amount of Boomers follow the countries’ “food guidelines,” double that of those aged 18-34 years. In the United States seven out of ten Boomers seek more fiber, 60% try to consume less fat and cholesterol, and 40% aim to eat fewer fried foods and for good reason.

According to data from the 2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet (American Diabetes Association), 25.8 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes (8.3% of the total population) with an estimated annual cost of $18 billion. A SupermarketGuru quick poll found that 74% of this food-involved panel has diabetes or lives with someone who does, and almost half want to make sure people around them can recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar and help prevent emergencies. High blood glucose levels can cause permanent damage to heart, eye, kidney, nerve and other tissue – all risks with type 2 diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that a staggering 79 million Americans over the age of 20 have prediabetes, which can double the risk for cardiovascular disease.

The CDC also reports that about every 25 seconds an American will have a coronary event, the most common is a heart attack. In 2010, an estimated 785,000 Americans had a new coronary attack, and about 470,000 had a recurrent attack with the American Heart Association projecting that by the year 2030 this costs of this disease will rise to $389 billion per year. The risk can be greatly reduced by taking steps to controlling diet and exercise.

Another report from the CDC found that one-third of adults have high blood pressure, a third of them untreated, and half do not have it fully under control. High blood pressure (or hypertension) is known as the silent killer because it has virtually no symptoms, but increases the risk for coronary artery disease and stroke and is linked to a decline in cognitive function in otherwise healthy adults, starting in their late teens! Look for heart healthy antioxidant rich foods including tomatoes, oily fish (such as salmon and sardines), green tea, carrots, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, alfalfa sprouts, cocoa (dark chocolate), soybean and safflower oil, seeds, popcorn, berries, apples, and whole-grains to take over the supermarket shelves; along with sodium reduced and potassium rich reformulations in many foods. Potassium and sodium are electrolytes, which controls cellular communication through our bodies and maintains health.

Trend #4

The Economy: The New Proteins

Proteins are part of every cell, tissue, and organ in our bodies; and are constantly being broken down and replaced. Protein accounts for 20% of our body weight, performing a wide variety of functions throughout the body as vital components of body tissues, enzymes, and immune cells. Protein is made up of amino acids that are later used for tissue repair and maintenance in the body. There are 20 different amino acids that join together to make the different proteins; some are made in the body, others are not. The amino acids that cannot be made by the body are called essential amino acids; it is essential that our diet provide these. The desire for and interest in protein is hot, and it is about body composition, sports, satiety and maintaining muscle mass as you get older. Complete proteins are those that provide all of the essential amino acids. Animal-based foods for example, meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese are considered complete protein sources. Incomplete proteins on the other hand, are those that are low in one or more of the essential amino acids, i.e. rice, beans, legumes, etc. Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids; an example includes tofu and brown rice or rice and beans.

As food prices for protein commodities increase dramatically (it is conservatively estimated by the USDA the cost of both beef and chicken will increase by at least five percent due to the 2012 drought as well as declining supplies) look for a major shift in the nation's protein food supply by moving away from meat-based proteins. In our SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Survey on grilling (which was conducted pre-pink slime headlines), more than 40% of the panel said the next big trend in grilling would be "meatless grilling."

As the culture of our population shifts to a more diverse ethnic mix, this trend is once again being fueled by Millenials of all ethnic backgrounds, who during their college years aligned themselves with the “less-meat to meatless spectrum” according toPackaged Facts’ How Gen Y Eats; and changed their diets to include low cost/high protein options like peanut and other nut butters and preparing just about every recipe with the versatile chickpea. We can expect to see popular protein influences from around the world becoming mainstream including Greek yogurt, Asian cuisines, Indian cuisines including those foods for breakfast including Adai and Pesarattu as well as tofu based burgers and other convenience foods.

Trend #5

Lifestyle: Breakfast Becomes The Most Important Meal of the Day

The benefits of breakfast are becoming hard to dispute, study after study show that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! The benefits of breakfast range from kids doing better in school and having less behavioral issues, to maintaining a more normal weight, more energy, better mood, and even improved memory. Will the costs of foods on the rise, many have taken typical protein rich breakfast foods into other day parts including lunch and dinner as a way to save money and maintain their healthy eating. Packaged Facts reports that Baby Boomers in particular want all food and experiences customizable and have extended food day parts, in particular that of all-day breakfast.

The latest study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that men who skipped breakfast more often had a 20% higher risk of Type 2 diabetes than those who consumed breakfast. The increased risk remained even after the researchers accounted for body mass index and the quality of the subjects’ breakfasts.

Keeping blood sugar stable is key to optimal wellness. Starting off the day with a solid breakfast is key. Some great choices include yogurt with granola or cereal, a veggie omelet with whole grain bread, a yogurt-based fresh or frozen fruit smoothie along side eggs. Nut and seed butters like almond, peanut, and sunflower are not only protein rich, but rich in essential minerals as well; slice banana or strawberries on top. Nut and seed butters are extremely versatile and can even be mixed in with oatmeal to increase the nutrition content of this already nutritious breakfast choice.

Trend #6

Frozen Foods Evolve Into Foods That Are Frozen

Consumers of all ages are looking for solutions to help feed their families with the tastiest, easiest to prepare and for some, the healthiest foods possible – at the right price. Data from The Hartman Group reports that 44% of all adult eating happens alone; underscoring the need for more single serve and convenience. While the frozen foods department has typically satisfied these needs, today unit sales are down more than any other department in the supermarket. But that is about to change.

Demographics also help to explain recent category trends. Over half of shoppers buying frozen foods are over the age of 55. Compared with 2007, there are 37% fewer shoppers under the age of 35 purchasing frozen foods. Of shoppers ages 35 to 44, 25% have left the department in the same period. One reason for the decline is the perception of frozen foods. Many of these younger consumers think of frozen foods as “processed” versus “prepared” when they peruse the aisle. Look for this fallacy to disappear as frozen food makers begin to tout their “real food” ingredients and explain the freezing process better: how the extreme cold temperature in the freezing process slows down the growth of microorganisms and other naturally occurring changes that affect quality or cause food to spoil.

More flavorful ethnic foods will attract Millenials to the frozen aisle as we see the concept of “a la carte” evolving. This is the generation who grew up with salad and taco bars, expect flexible menus, a variety of options and have embraced the lifestyle concept of using singular “apps” in concert with each other. We predict more smaller size packages of real foods that are frozen that are “mixed and matched” to create meals, rather than one package that include the full meal.

The other demographic group that will change the path of frozens are Hispanics, which as already stated, will account for just over 30% of the total U.S. population by 2050. This population exceeded 50 million people in 2010. Hispanics, according to the research study Hispanic 411 from Univision, reveals that 42% of Hispanics prepare “hybrid meals,” using some foods from the frozen foods aisle, to bridge the divide between traditional tastes and convenience. And six in ten Hispanics cite “knowing others will like it” as a factor when buying frozen foods double that of non-Hispanics.

Trend #7

Lifestyle: Men in the Supermarket and in the Kitchen

In 2012, our #7 trend was also about the male; the new role of the male shopper and reported that 41% of all family cooking was now being led by dad. In 2013, we see the male’s influence on our foods becoming even stronger as even more dads join the ranks of shopper and cook, and as more men remain single longer (median age for male first time marriages was 22.8 years in 1960 versus 28.4 years old in 2009).

According to a June 2012 survey from Cone Communications, 52% of fathers now identify themselves as the primary grocery store shopper; and ESPN reports that 31% of grocery shoppers are men - more than double the amount in 1985. Interestingly more dads than moms (52% vs. 46%) are more likely to plan meals for the week ahead of time. Men are getting more comfortable, and powerful in the kitchen.

One driver is certainly the reality that many more husbands are working at home, or find themselves looking for work and taking over some household duties in the meantime. Another is discovering the enjoyment in preparing foods. Yet another is becoming more involved in food preparation for lifestyle changes or health reasons.

Some supermarkets are experimenting with “man-aisles” – locations in the store which feature male oriented foods and other products to make shopping and impulse buying more targeted. We see however a longer lasting effort to attract and empower the male shopper through in-store shopping and nutrition tours and programs like Men’s Health magazine’s cooking school.

Newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the number of one-person households in the country - 31.4 million - comprises 27% of all U.S. households (up from 17% in 1970) of which approximately 43% are male; 45% of seniors are single. Married couples with children number much less at 20.1 million households. A further surge in single households could occur once the economy rebounds, and once adult Millennial children living at home with their parents (often post-college, carrying heavy education debt, and facing underwhelming job prospects) feel able to venture on their own. The Census Bureau data show that in March 2010, some 21 million adult children (one-quarter of them age 25 and older) are living at home among 12 million established households.

Trend #8

Mobile the Next Generation: Tests for Allergens, Ripening Produce, Organics, and Start Cooking Your Meals

iPhones have changed everything. Forty-three percent of all cellphone users in the U.S. have smartphones. Food retailers are of two minds about mobile commerce. Some operators feel they gain competitive advantage serving the demands of omni-channel shoppers, and even embrace them with location-based check-in deals. Others resent the price and performance pressures applied by smartphone- and tablet-toting shoppers, who find product, price and consumer review information on the Web and apps before and during visits to their stores. Food shoppers on the other hand have embraced mobile to do everything from preparing shopping lists, compare prices, find recipes, find out what’s on sale, sharing food pictures, food ratings as well as searching everything they can about a food’s background, nutrition and benefits. That was the starting point, and now food mobile gets really interesting.

Smart phones will network with our kitchen appliances and allow us to do everything from checking how much milk we have left in the fridge to starting to heat up the oven on the drive home. Apps are being developed that utilize sensors, which attach to the mobile device, to test whether foods are actually organic, have specific allergens or ingredients and can be used as glucose monitors for diabetics and blood pressure machines on the go.

We predict this next generation of apps that may require peripherals will expand to include apps that can determine if fruits and vegetables are ripe, if refrigerated and frozen foods have been kept at the correct temperature throughout the supply chain, and even test for food borne bacteria including E.coliSalmonella and Listeria. A personal “food lab” in every shopper’s pocket.

Trend #9

Lifestyle:  Millenials Go Retail – As Employees

Millenials have a hard time finding a silver lining in this economy, with so many of them highly educated, carrying high debt for their degrees, and unemployed or underemployed. Boomers have delayed their retirement to replenish their nest eggs, but will likely step aside within a handful of years. Millenials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. This should open new jobs at pay rates that seem fair to both employers (less than the mature workers made) and the educated workers on the rise. It could be payoff time for people who’ve re-schooled to fit into fields targeted for growth such as healthcare. Few, if any, extended-students today are taken on tuition debt just to feel productive during a slow economy - they are retooling to be competitive in fields targeted for growth.

But for now, according to a study released by PayScale, the most common jobs held by this generation are retail floor clerks and sales representatives, both are among the lowest paying jobs. Retail clerks average $19,300 per year. An opportunity for food retailers.

Part-timers in supermarkets have regularly turned over at more than 100% per year. Even in a slow economy, however, the rate persists at 44.1% annually, compared with 11.2% for full-timers, and 8.4% for retail headquarters and corporate staff, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Store staffers are the face and personality of a supermarket. Costco and Trader Joe’s appear to understand this. Whole Foods built their reputation on having food and health knowledgeable staff in every aisle. They value their employees and pay them relatively well to help create positive environments that keep turnover down. Continuity of well-trained staff is becoming more important, since smartphone-equipped shoppers armed with product and price information demand more responsiveness at the store level.

We predict a new opportunity for the food-centric, food-loving Millenials in supermarkets. In our view, food retailers at both the high and low-end of the wage spectrum could benefit by hiring Millenials, not only with more livable wages, but with career development opportunities that will both empower the individual to make use of their talents and passion, but also to feed the growing need for educated young talent. Work styles may be challenging however, as the MTV “No Collar Workers” reports how different Millenials really are. Eighty-one percent of Millenials feel they should be able to set their own hours, a desire that may fit supermarkets at store level, but is challenging as they move up in the organization. Almost three-quarters say they need “me time” on the job – double that of Boomers – and a full 90% believe that they deserve their “dream job."

Trend #10

Transparency: Who is making our food?

In our Trend Forecast for 2012, we predicted the end of the Celebrity Chef and the beginning of the Celebrity Farmer era. More shoppers are interested in knowing not only where their foods are coming from, but also want to know about the people making their foods and are learning about their stories. Farmers markets have increased 17% in the last year; nearly 1,000 more markets than in 2010, but shoppers are quickly discovering that the people standing behind the table might not be the farmer, nor be able to answer their questions. And are getting frustrated with every visit. Shoppers are spending the time and reading more food packages as they shop the aisles in the supermarkets. They are looking for real information – not the faux stories about some dining experience in a mythical romantic inn located in an idyllic setting where it inspired a recipe – but information they desire to trace recipes and foods back to their heritage. Food transparency is here to stay.

Our supermarkets are already undergoing a transition in key departments as products return to their basic heritage and recipes. Greek yogurts, grass fed beef, and even the more traditional prepackaged deli meats and cheeses are returning to their roots as they transform into antibiotic-free, free-range, artisanal and their original recipes.

As we have seen over the past 12 months, people are choosing their foods more holistically-based on all the “food factors”; taste, ingredients, source, nutritional composition as well as asking who is making their foods along with understanding the impact on our environment and animal welfare.

We predict that 2013 will be a transitional year as on package claims proliferate and may confuse; look for supermarkets to take up the role of gatekeeper and actually demand proof (transparency!) of these claims before they will permit them to be sold on their shelves.