Chicago, IL—At the 2010 Shopper Marketing Expo, held here, a marketing seminar discussed areas of interest and change in consumer behavior toward their food and beverage purchases. The seminar was presented by Mary Lorson of Pavone, an agency specializing in food and beverage marketing. The presentation is based on an annual Food Trends Report compiled by the company. The four trends highlighted, all of which apply to the organic and natural foods segment, were discussed under the following headings:   

  • Mainstream Middle Eastern
  • All Star Ingredients
  • A Single Voice
  • Relax

Lorson discussed each of the four trends with WholeFoods, saying of the rise of Middle Eastern cuisine in the minds of shoppers, “We see an increased presence of Middle Eastern stands in local farmer markers, often surrounded by messages about how healthy the cuisine is. Gourmet food trucks coast to coast are featuring a mix of local and Middle Eastern fare.” She cites the increased popularity of a wide range of foods, including hummus, pita bread and chips, goat cheese and Middle Eastern grains like couscous, as signs that consumers are enjoying their forays into the long-neglected category.
About recipe-enhancing ingredients that are creating a buzz around cooking at home, Lorson says, “Manufacturers are finding that calling out one or two premium ingredients, like sea salt or agave sweetener, can add a halo of credibility and authenticity to a prepared product.” She says that this practice implies that all ingredients in a product are of high-quality, and that consumers may end up feeling cheated if this is not the case.

The report also found that people want to put these all-star ingredients to use themselves. According to Lorson, the number of brands of salt available at an average grocery has risen greatly, and there has also been an explosion in the number of brands and types of sugar, flour, spices, rice, cheese, milk, cream, butter, eggs, mustard, vinegar and yogurt. “Five years ago, you would be hard-pressed to find two options in any of these categories,” says Lorson.

The “A Single Voice” trend emphasized the heightened power that social media and related technology has handed the average consumer. “In the food world, we see online consumer advocates fighting against the use of BPA in plastics, complaining about Cheerios’ cholesterol claims and most recently ranting against PopTarts’ attempts to make its products seem healthier,” says Lorson.

The final trend is a prediction that food marketing will see a turn toward claims that certain foods aid restfulness and sleep. Consumers have always sought ways to sleep better, and are now turning toward diet as a means to achieve that goal, according to the report. “We remind all our audiences that our trends are a prediction of what will be happening in the next three to five years, and are not yet fully expressed or fully leveraged by current marketing and product development teams,” says Lorson. For instance, there were unconfirmed reports, according to Lorson, that The Dairy Council wants to explore the role of drinking milk at bedtime and its marketing implications.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2010 (online 10/27/2010)