What will grocery shoppers be buying 10 years from now? It's a vexing question for food producers and marketers alike.
New food products take months, or even years, to develop. It's extraordinarily difficult to anticipate, that far out, not only what consumer preferences will be, but also what laws, agricultural production factors and market conditions will prevail.
Of course, that doesn't prevent industry experts from trying. And Technomic has done just that, in its recently published report, “Food Industry Transformation: The Next Decade,” which seeks to predict what grocery shoppers' preferences (and the market's responses to them) will be in 2025.
Are shelf-stable foods an endangered grocery species?
According to Technomic, the current trend toward fresh and fast will continue, with consumers demanding not only more perishable goods, but also more pre-prepped or ready-to-eat fresh foods from their grocers. Sales of shelf-stable, center aisle-type products will be "flat at best" in the next 10 years. Essentially, Technomic predicts, a Whole Foods-style marketplace model will become the norm.
This means that many mainstream food brands will soon find themselves in a scramble to revamp business models that have remained largely unchanged since the late 1940s. We've already seen some making moves in that direction.
Last week, in a presentation to investors, Campbell's Soup President and CEO Denise Morrison lamented grocery shoppers' landmark shift away from the center aisle.
"In my career, I have never seen industry conditions like today," Morrison said, noting that this has created a market in which sales are, "far from the Rockwell-esque picture us [sic] in the food business are accustomed to."
Campbell's, for one, is bowing to consumers' demands by reformulating many of its signature products, reducing salt, preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup and sugar. It is also launching a website, whatsinmyfood.com, that will give curious consumers unprecedented insight into how the company makes, preserves and packages its products.Other brands should be taking notice.
Campbell's — with its years of experience, stable finances and still-reasonable sales — isn’t just sitting back, playing the fast-and-fresh trend as they would a short-term fad. Campbell's clearly believes that we're experiencing a permanent shift in consumers' preferences and has begun to adapt, not just their products, but their entire brand image in order to align with this new direction.
So what are some of the food trends on the near horizon?
We need look only as far as the Summer Fancy Food Show, held last month in New York City, to see a few of the developing hot items. At Summer Fancy, several nascent food fads were evident: gazpacho, beets and items that incorporated edible flowers were all shown by multiple presenters.
Gazpacho certainly fits in with both the fast-and-fresh and ready-to-eat trends. It's supposed to be eaten cold, it's filling, refreshing and low in calories. And, because it's based on fresh fruits and vegetables, it's also typically high in essential vitamins and minerals. It's virtually non-fat. And it's gluten-free.
Beets — they've long been vilified and pooh-poohed by picky kids and adults alike. But they're also versatile little root veggies, rich in antioxidants and filled with natural sugars which, when raw and unrefined, are friendlier than cane sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to people on low-glycemic diets. They can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, baked, chopped into salads, soups or stews, or even fermented to make kvass (a probiotic beverage).
And edible flowers? Well, they’re certainly colorful. And non-fat, low-calorie, exotic and fresh, to boot. It's easy to see why edible flower items might crowd onto grocery shelves over the next year. Grocery shoppers looking for diversification in taste will flock to them like bees to the garden.