Here comes the future – are you ready?

It’s no secret that for years the biggest trends impacting the grocery channel have typically originated in food service. If you were wondering what’s in store for the future, all you need to do is a take a look at what’s currently hot at your favorite restaurant right now.

Mintel, a market research firm did just that recently. The Chicago-based marketer scoured consumer opinion as well as the latest research and came up with four key trends they believe will most impact food service this year.

Meat – With beef, chicken and the like seeing huge prices spikes, Mintel predicts we will see smaller portions offered in restaurants and premium positioning being hyped to defray higher pricing.

Beverages – Mintel researchers believe the days of offering basic beverages are over and that innovative beverages such as juices featuring superfoods, craft beers and gourmet drinks will be the new norm.

Food safety – Headlines in the media and social websites will continue to drive the need for more transparency when it comes to the safety of our foods, believe Mintel officials. Consumers have grown tired of cost cutting methods and the risks they believe it imposes on their health (pink slime anyone?). Quality ingredient sourcing will become even more important to consumers this year. Phrases such as “cage-free” and “made on premises” will drive many choices.

Unconventional meal times – the increasing number of food choices available to consumers 24/7 is resulting in meals being consumed whenever and wherever people are hungry versus predetermined times. This desire for all- access eating,  the experts at Mintel point out, means food service companies will need to find ways to stay relevant to consumers who want the food “any time and anywhere.”

My prediction is that we will see many of these food service trends begin to impact grocery stores by the end of 2013, if not sooner. Question is, will you wait and see if it comes to fruition or are you already thinking to yourself how you can take this information and customize it to your own operation? For all those who raised their hands, give yourself a pat on the back.

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