Have your Salad and Drink It, Too! The Blurring of Food Categories

December 2, 2017

Consumers today don’t hold themselves hostage to conventions when it comes to foods and beverages. That includes not just what they eat, but also how and when they eat. For example, according to market research firm Mintel, 70 percent of consumers think anything can be a snack, and 90 percent report eating breakfast for dinner from time to time. Combined with ever-greater demands for convenience, this shift in shopper mindset has spurred the growth of foods and beverages that blur traditional categories.

“Edible beverages” like smoothies and drinkable yogurts are a prime example of this shift. According to Mintel, U.S. sales of drinkable yogurt grew 62 percent between 2011 and 2016. In the Asia-Pacific region, adoption is even more widespread, with drinkable yogurt making up nearly 40 percent of the yogurt market share, according to market research firm Technavio. Worldwide, Technavio predicts the market will grow to an over $30 billion business by 2020.

Meal bowls are another example of category deconstruction in both food service and grocery. For example, bowl claims on menus rose 38 percent between 2012 and 2015, according to Mintel. Consumers can now find meal bowl solutions for all eating occasions—whether it’s scramble cups or smoothie bowls for breakfast, salad and grain bowls for lunch, or fajita bowls for dinner.

Photo courtesy of Kellogg Company

It’s not just food and beverage types that are crossing categories, but also flavors. For example, flavors usually associated with entrées are being reimagined in the form of snack foods—think pizza crust potato chips, French toast donuts and burrito-flavored tortilla chips. We’re also seeing beverage flavors make their way into foods—like hot cocoa-flavored cookies, root beer-flavored toaster pastries and coffee-flavored caramels.

Some innovative brands are even taking the lead in reinventing around new eating occasions and celebrations. This includes things like snacks specifically branded for happy hour, baked goods designed for holiday “Ugly Sweater” parties, and meal bars and shakes designed especially for travelers.

These trends all point to the conclusion that to continue to differentiate and compete, retailers must rethink conventional norms on categories, flavors, health needs, meal construction and eating occasions to deliver the convenience, variety and sense of adventure shoppers are increasingly demanding.