Food Forum: What’s Emerging in Food Retail

October 6, 2016

Grocery Headquarters | October 6, 2016 – Consumers today are not holding themselves hostage to conventions and neither should retailers. In fact, they cannot afford to. A new normal has emerged in modern-day eating culture—what is eaten, how it is eaten, where and at what time of day. The competition in food retail is fiercer than ever, so retailers must revisit conventional thinking to differentiate and stay relevant. Let’s take a closer look at what’s to come in 2017:

Next Generation Categories Emerge

Traditional categories will be redefined as more and more consumers demand solutions, not just products on a shelf. As uniquely targeted products and services emerge to better address new need states we will see more crossover categories—think edible beverages, savory desserts, beverages made into bars—“instagram-worthy” hybrids and positioning to pop culture. Retailers will be increasingly challenged to help consumers navigate through a sea of choices. We are nearing the end of traditional category delineations as we know them.

Healthy Meets Craveability

Consumers do not want to be forced to choose between taste and health anymore. Thanks to the culinary ingenuity of chefs and the many home cooks of social media, consumers no longer have to compromise. One such example is the evolution of “veg-centric” eating—not vegetarian, not vegan, just giving some culinary love to vegetables to make them more craveable and relevant. We have seen the explosion of zucchini noodles, rotisserie beets, cauliflower steaks and more. In 2017, we will see even more assortments of “veg-centric” solutions, including reimagined ready meals, kits, snacks and even services—think while-you-wait veggie grinding and spiraling.

Multi-Sensory as the New Innovation Mantra

Expectations are at an all-time high and consumers are not just choosing with their taste buds. Dynamic flavors and food experiences are all the rage. Cooking methods—especially all things live-fire based—and food textures are getting more experimental and exciting. Think asado roasted, burnt spice rubbed and melty middles. Even color is being used as a platform for innovation, from the infamous rainbow bagel phenomenon to the proliferation of new products featuring birthday cake and fruity cereal flavors. 2017 will see the continued application of multi-sensory, including gamification, food theater, interactive digital and consumer co-creation to fuel stronger connectivity and loyalty.

Global Flavors—The 80/20 Way

Global flavors are a staple in the modern-day diet. Adults and kids alike continue to experiment with a wider variety of cuisines. While no longer niche, the right balance is still needed to reduce the risk of trying something new. We think of it as the 80/20 approach—that is, 80 percent approachable, 20 percent innovative to intrigue but not turn off—Korean fried chicken, “bowlified” Indian dishes, Moroccan shareables and more. Food for kids will also be revisited. The same ol’ chicken fingers and mac and cheese simply will not cut it.

“MegaHealth”—A Step Above Wellness

As 2016 comes to a close, it is more apparent that health has become a cost of entry. From expanding organic, cleaning up labels, storytelling for transparency, all the way to aligning with social consciousness, it is clear that the impact of health and wellness has been profound. As with all other things, consumers continue to raise the bar and the industry will step up. In 2017, amplified health messaging (super herbs), hyper-targeting to emerging needs (fitness specificity) and curating around wellness solutions (microbiome friendly) will address the evolution in this space. The race to align further with self-quantification is on.

Remember, conventional is a thing of the past. Consumers are breaking all the rules and progressive retailers and manufacturers are being agile. The time to act is now. Those who do not will be left behind.

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