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DENVER – The one thing that remains constant about consumer behavior and the foodservice market is that things are constantly changing.
Laurie Demeritt, CEO of market researcher The Hartman Group Inc., spoke of the latest changes during her show-opening speech Sunday at the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association's (IDDBA) 2014 Seminar and Expo, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The very composition of households in the United States is often different from the nuclear family most people imagine, Demeritt explained, with only 28 percent of U.S. households including children under age 18 and 47 percent of primary shoppers being men. Additionally, 28 percent of U.S. households are single-person households. "This is a prime household for your category," she said.
Along with demographic changes, U.S. consumers are changing the way they work. "Increasingly, we're working more," Demeritt said, creating unique dining needs as a result.
Another ongoing change is the way in which consumers shop, with more than half of all grocery shopping trips now including more than two stores. Additionally, 71 percent of consumers visit five or more retail channels at least once a month, including convenience stores, grocery stores, dollar stores, vending machines and more. "They're accessing food in so many different ways," Demeritt said.
With freshness on the rise as a favored attribute, today's consumers are also shopping more often –- a habit encouraged by the fact that food is everywhere, giving people the sense that they don't need to stock up during periodic shopping trips as in the past.
Millennials in particular are engaged with the "fresh perimeter," Demeritt explained, as they look for fresh fast food, snacks and meals to eat in the short term along with higher quality experiences to provide food discovery, enjoyment, sociability and indulgences.
Other speakers on day one of the annual IDDBA event included:
- Celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who discussed the evolution of his career;
- Peter Diamandis, chairman and CEO of the X Prize Foundation, who offered a look into the future and the way exponentially advancing technology will likely affect attendees both personally and professionally in the coming years; and
- Captain Richard Phillips, who told the story of the 2009 Somali pirate attack during which he was taken hostage for several days. He shared the three points of being a leader that he said served him well during the attack and would do the same for anyone's career: be flexible, stay calm and know that you're stronger than you realize.
Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst and vice president of The NPD Group, concluded the day's programming by discussing the ways eating patterns in America have changed –- and the ways they haven't.
"One thing you can count on: There's always something new," he said. At the same time, though, the current top 10 most popular food items in the U.S. include ready-to-eat cereal, coffee and carbonated soft drinks -- nearly identical items to the top 10 list from a decade ago.
More consumers are shifting from main meals to snacks, but the home is still the source of 80 percent of meals, according to Balzer. And while consumers want to eat healthier food, "health" is a changing target that today can mean various things such as high in protein, free from gluten or artificial ingredients and more.
Most importantly, he noted that consumer behavior is mostly driven by habit and one of those habits is to always want to try a variety of food and beverage items. "It's the spice of life," he said.
FRESH & CONVENIENT
On the exhibit hall floor, multiple baked goods suppliers featured smaller, single-serve items meant to appeal to impulsive snackers at convenience stores and similar retailers.
One attendee commented that the Hostess Brands bankruptcy built up a demand in consumers that the now-returned company and its competitors are working to fill.
For some suppliers, it's a challenge balancing the long shelf life retailers want with freshly made items. "It's all about the fresh convenience today," said a Daymon Worldwide representative.
Similar to what was seen at the recent National Restaurant Association Show, Greek yogurt is "still on fire," noted a representative for YoCrunch Yogurt. Rather than letting it die out as a trend, suppliers are getting creative by adding sweet and savory mix-ins to the high-protein yogurt.
The three-day International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association 2014 Seminar and Expo concludes Tuesday, June 3.