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CHICAGO — The ways that Americans eat, how and where people source meals and the attributes that will win share of wallet are ever-changing. However, there are five overarching trends to watch for in 2017, according to The NPD Group.
These trends include:
The battle for share of stomach will intensify. For several years, more than 80 percent of meals have been sourced from home; fewer than 20 percent have been sourced from foodservice outlets; and dollars are evenly split between the two. Food manufacturers will benefit from a trend toward eating meals at home, and foodservice operators will increasingly leverage technology to conveniently get their offerings to the in-home table. Retailers occupy the intersection of this trend and will continue to blur the line between retail and foodservice.
Watch for the continued development of the "blended meal." Although consumers are dining at home more and value fresh and authentic foods, convenience remains important. People don't always source meals entirely at home or away from home. Various components of "homemade" meals will be sourced from items fully or partially prepared. According to NPD, opportunity exists all along the preparation spectrum, from meal kits to restaurant delivery.
Companies will win by getting personal. There will be opportunities for double-digit growth even in a mature, low-growth environment, but the consumer is in charge today more than ever. Access to information is empowering people to do things on their terms, and the days of a one-size-fits-all blockbuster idea are over. Consumer will seek out foods with a variety of value-added attributes (fresh, natural, organic); positive benefits (energy, brain food and more); and social value (local, sustainable, transparent). Some of these opportunities may seem small by the standards of big companies, but they are where the growth is.
The definition of meal occasions will evolve. People aren't adding new eating occasions to their day, but how meal and between-meal occasions are composed will continue to change. Foods with the flexibility to compose an eating occasion to fit specific needs at a given time will grow, whether they are packaged goods or foodservice offerings. Consumers will make their choices based on price point, portion control and portability, or whatever lets them craft a snack or full meal, spend a little or a lot, take a break or eat on the run.
Experience will make the difference. Food manufacturers, retailers, and foodservice operators must go beyond sustenance to stand out. People will seek out experiences, whether this means exploring street food vendors, emerging ethnic flavors or hands-on experiences, such as learning new food prep techniques. Connecting a product or brand to an experience people are eager to share with others can be an important differentiating factor in 2017.
"The search for white space, growth occasions, and new product opportunity will be more important than ever for food companies and foodservice operators in 2017," said David Portalatin, vice president, food industry analyst at NPD Group and author of Eating Patterns in America. "Opportunities to grow and innovate are out there but the key to finding them in the coming year will be staying in touch with the consumer. They're the ones in charge."