Sounding Board: Do these trends have legs?

Retailers need to sift through a lot of fly-by-night offerings to find ones that will bring in business.

There are just some food trends that you know are not going to work out.

I doubt that current research on raising insects for food has legs—figuratively speaking. Besides, in which department would they be merchandised? Then there is some serious study of laboratory-raised, or “in-vitro,” meat. I cannot conceive the marketing campaign for that product.

However, these are part of a fascinating treatise on food trends from JWT, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world and part of the WPP Group. After three days of walking around FMI, you might want to spend some quality time with this fun and thought-provoking discourse. This piece of research offers some unique and overlooked insights on all things impacting food and consumer purchasing—everything from waste to fresh food vending machines.

We have talked about the concept of “food as theater” for many years but a foodie flash mob in Paris took it to a new level.  Several hundred people, all dressed in white, bring their own food and tables to a secret public location to dine thanks to Internet messaging. Then there is “Smorgasburg,” a weekly event hosted by about 75 food vendors that is held in the now-trendy area of Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York.

If you are looking for some unusual takeout—or, to be more precise, mail-in—subscription services are making a comeback. Instead of the old fruit-of-the-month club, places such as Gilt Taste, Foodzie and Blissmobox feature monthly packages of unusual or gourmet items.

In beverages, White Lightnin’ or Moonshine, a corn whiskey that hearkens back to the days of prohibition and illegal stills in the Appalachians, is catching on with distillers, some of whom are bottling it in old Mason jars that add to the mystique. Additionally, beer and beer cocktails are gaining popularity and beer sommeliers are becoming as legitimate as their wine counterparts.

Analyzing the impact of weather, the study notes that Thailand, the world’s biggest rice producer, is expecting lower yields as a result of flooding. Meanwhile, a drought in Texas and the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami keep pushing up beef and seafood prices.
These issues even extend to chocolate. It seems that increased demand in China along with agricultural issues on the Ivory Coast could result in a cocoa shortage by 2020 unless more is done to promote sustainability.

Turning to sustainability and waste reduction efforts, Unilever Food Solutions recently launched United Against Waste aimed at the foodservice industry.

Meanwhile, U.K. retailers Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer are joining forces in a “Love Food, Hate Waste” campaign designed to help consumers find recipes for leftovers. There is even a French social network called Super Marmite, which enables members who have cooked too much to sell unused meals in their communities.

Other noteworthy trends include:

A company called Fooducate has created an app that enables consumers to scan barcodes for product information. The most scanned products are yogurt, cereal and snack bars.

Vending machines for health-conscious consumers are selling carrots and apples for snacks as well as meal replacement bars and yogurt. In Spain, one vending machine enables consumers to refill their own containers with fresh milk and others dispense portions of fresh fish and bread. In France, an automatic baguette dispenser is stocked with partially precooked loafs that get fully cooked when the machine is activated.

Restaurants in Buenos Aires, Argentina, have removed salt shakers from tables in an agreement with the city’s health department. In New York City, the health department is spearheading a National Salt Reduction Initiative.

Development of more “superfood” products engineered to target health conditions and beauty needs.

Increased focus on the health benefits of herbs and spices.

Artery-cleaning foods that help reduce LTL cholesterol.

Reduced-sized products like a 10-ounce ketchup pouch and a 9-ounce yellow mustard for 99 cents from H.J Heinz and a four-ounce  package of instant mashed potatoes for 79 cents from Supervalu’s Save-A-Lot chain.

Smart appliances that give consumers an inventory of what is inside their refrigerators.
What I have touched on here is only a small sampling of the trends and analyses in JWT’s report. It is well worth reading in its entirety.

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