7 Trends for Food Retailers to Consider for 2016

The recipe to maintaining a viable and growing business in the retail food space is to change as consumers’ change. In other words, big-box food retailers, supermarkets, specialty food stores, and even convenience stores must adapt to their customers’ always varying tastes.

Trends do change over time and what’s trendy now could be old hat a year or two from now. Nonetheless, the following seven trends are currently popular and gaining momentum. The conventional wisdom is that they will be driving forces in the food industry for 2016.

1. Food education

For consumers, it’s not just about a particular food product, it’s also about the science and fundamentals behind a specific product. Consumers want to make informed buying decisions about food. They are increasingly interested in food education, primarily their own research into what makes up quality, healthier food.

The trend here for customers is knowing where their food comes from, who produced it and how. Additionally, they want to know the ingredients of these foods and whether there are any health concerns regarding ingredients. Food stores should focus on supplying this vital information – in-store – to their customers.

2. Price/quality dynamic

Contemporary consumers are willing to pay premium prices for certain food products if they believe them of premier quality. The emphasis here is on purchasing products that are nutritious, fresh, and natural. Purity of ingredients is definitely a trend in the food and foodservice industry. Customers will trade-off price in many cases for high-quality food products that benefit their health and suit their lifestyle. Supermarkets need to include such items in their product mix.

3. New toppings

People do not want the ‘same old’ when it comes to food toppings. Gone are the days of basic gravies and sauces passed down from grandparents to parents and then to offspring. Not that there is anything wrong with these old favorites, it’s just that consumers want new, bold, and exciting toppings. Food retailers must carry products of this sort, and/or the ingredients needed for customers to create their own concoctions.

Trends in this area include creating one’s own steak sauce for burgers and steak. Exotic seasoning combinations undergo experimentation for chicken dishes. Furthermore, there’s innovation in seafood toppings. Unique sauce recipes exist for salmon, halibut, haddock, or other fish. An example is a sauce that consists of sherry, soy sauce, water, ginger root, and apple juice concentrate. This is certainly an alternative to simple (but delicious) butter and lemon juice over fish.

4. No antibiotic or hormones

This is a significant trend in the food industry as a whole. Consumer Packaged Goods companies must seriously address this issue when manufacturing products destined for supermarket shelves. Food retailers must take a page from the fast-food business when considering healthier products to stock on their shelves.

The European Union bars growth hormones in meat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the amount and kind of hormones used. So does Health Canada. However, some companies are going further. For example, the A&W hamburger chaining Canada is promoting its hormone, antibiotic and preservative free burgers.

5. Niche beverages

Customers are looking for first-rate new beverages on supermarket shelves and in supermarket dairy cases. The sales of soda (carbonated pop) are declining as people seek healthier alternatives to sugary drinks. There’s even a bit of a backlash against diet drinks that use chemical substitutes for sugar.

Consumers desire pure bottled water, vitamin waters, healthy energy drinks, and ready-to-drink iced coffees and teas. Furthermore, they seek drinks that have few ingredients, and they want those few ingredients healthy ones. This accounts for the many green tea product offerings that are popular. An example in this category is green and other teas that contain 100 percent certified organic ganoderma (also known as reishi mushroom).

6. International flavors

Another trend in the food industry is customers’ desire for international flavors – decidedly different from typical U.S. and Canadian dinner-time fare. Food retailers must embrace this trend when it comes to carrying new products. Ethnic condiments and spices are a hot trend, such as harissa and chimichurri. So is authentic ethnic cuisine, not Tex-Mex, but real Mexican recipes sourced from the nation.

In addition, ethnic motivated morning menus are trendy. Examples in this category include coconut milk pancakes and Asian-flavored syrups.

7. Locally sourced seafood, produce, and meats

This hearkens somewhat to point number one. Consumers increasingly want local products. First off, they want food stores to stock products that move from food manufacturers, farms, and butcher shops, quickly, to supermarkets shelves and then their dinner tables.

Secondly, they want to buy locally to promote their local economies. Such is the popularity of buying regional wines. Third, they want to easily trace the source of their foods if they encounter any problems with them. Being able to communicate with a local producer is certainly advantageous.

The retail food business is always in some sort of transition. Yes, traditional products from companies with rich traditions are still popular. Nevertheless, the above trends are also a driving force in the industry. It behooves food retailers to understand these trends and reap the financial benefits from subscribing to some or all of them.

Post time: 04-03-2017