Local foods: A sales boom on par with “organic”?

March 3 - Will local foods organic foods in popularity? Some members of the industry think so based in part on consumer demand now at an all-time high. Data from a November 2014 proprietary Packaged Facts National Consumer Survey published in Shopping for Local Foods in the U.S. found that 53% of the 2,271 adult respondents specially seek out locally grown or locally produced foods. Among the primary reasons for purchasing locally grown or locally produced foods, 60% of consumers who purchase local products say they do so because the products are fresher. In addition, more than half (52%) of consumers say they buy local products to support local businesses, and 44% of consumers say the products taste better.

From takeout to haute cuisine, gluten-free is on the menu

Feb. 9 - That sound you (virtually) heard on January 26, when Pizza Hut debuted its Udi’s-crusted gluten-free pizza to 2,400 locations nationwide, was a collective cheer from the GF blogosphere. “The beautiful partnership of Pizza Hut and Udi’s,” said one blogger, is a celiac’s dream come true. “Excited” was the word du jour. Gluten free-ers are excited that the world’s largest pizza company is catering to their dietary needs. Excited that the move will spur other restaurants into GF action, and excited that Pizza Hut is doing it right.

In collaboration with Gluten Intolerance Group, Pizza Hut implemented in-store training protocols, developed customized preparation procedures, and supplied restaurants with Gluten-Free Kits with gloves, parchment paper, and designated pizza cutters. This overhaul process is not simple, easy, or cheap. Having made the investment in time and training to carve itself a slice of the GF pie, the world’s largest pizza company is clearly confident that gluten-free is far from faddish.

Indeed, Packaged Facts’ report Gluten-free Foods in the U.S. (January 2015) reveals that the share of chain restaurants serving GF fare skyrocketed seven-fold between 2010 and 2014 to 15%. And roughly 14% of respondents to Packaged Facts’ August 2014 proprietary consumer survey say the availability of gluten-free options plays a role when they are deciding what to order at fast-food or sit-down restaurants.

A case of “natural” survival in the frozen food aisle

Feb. 2 - The last few years have not been kind to frozen foods. Overall sales have for the most part been flat or shrinking. Any increases have been minimal and short-lived. The recent damage to this once essential grocery segment can largely be traced to a growing consumer taste for fresh, natural, and organic foods.

Like most food trends, the strength of this trend may be overstated but it is real and it is growing as can be seen from the double-digit sales increases for organic foods reported by the USDA’s Economic Research Service. The ERS further notes that organic foods are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 out of 4 conventional grocery stores and are estimated to now represent over 4% of total U.S. food sales.

Since frozen foods are identified by many consumers as vehicles for additives and preservatives, the decline in sales appears to be an unavoidable result. Nevertheless, some frozen food marketers have avoided the decline because of their identity as purveyors of all natural, organic, healthier “good for you” products, according to Packaged Facts in the report Frozen Foods in the U.S.: Hot Meals, Sides, and Snacks. One of these is Annie’s, which makes both frozen and non-frozen food products. Another is Gardien, a Canadian manufacturer that offers a wide selection of vegetable protein-based meat alternative products.

Yogurt makers hope to capture a little Disney magic

Jan. 22 - Chobani recently announced that it is expanding its product range to appeal to more consumers and eating occasions.  Central to the expansion is its new Chobani Kids and Chobani Tots lines, which will prominently feature Disney and Marvel characters on packaging.  Such efforts by Disney are an essential strategic maneuver to not only potentially boost present-day sales, but to also build a vital rapport with the next generation of consumers that will endure even as today’s kids grow to adulthood.

Winnie the Pooh graces the packaging of Chobani Tots, which comes in mango & spinach and banana & pumpkin flavors.  And Spider-Man powers Chobani Kids, coming in flavors such as grape and strawberry.  Additional characters including Doc McStuffins will debut on packaging in summer 2015, according to a Chobani press release.

Of course, Disney is not a novice when it comes to aligning its brand with yogurt partners, notes Packaged Facts in The Yogurt Market and Yogurt Innovation, 2nd Edition.

Why functional ingredients are among key food trends for 2015

Jan. 14 - Today’s consumers want and expect more than great taste and belly-filling from the foods and beverages they consume.  Ninety percent of Americans believe that certain foods offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition, according to research published in Packaged Facts’ Functional Foods: Key Trends & Developments in Ingredients.  Baby Boomers and Millennials are looking for products offering positive nutrition to help them optimize health and avoid chronic and, potentially, life-threatening illness.  A 2013 survey found that about one-third of consumers indicated using functional foods to replace some medicine in the context of their overall health approach. 

As a result of ingredient innovation, enhanced ingredient understanding and recent and proposed regulatory changes, functional food marketers are now able to target a wider range of consumers and their more diverse and pressing nutritional and health needs in 2015.  Some of the key nutrients and ingredients sure to be in the spotlight are protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin D, magnesium and microalgae. 

Necessity, improving economy drive spending in U.S. market for home organization products

Jan. 5 - Sales of home organization products in the U.S. were on a tear until the recession and housing crash ground growth to a halt.  In fact sales declined in 2008 and 2009 before beginning a recovery that continued through 2014.  In the report Home Organization in the U.S.: General Purpose, Closets, Garages, and Storage Sheds, 3rd Edition, Packaged Facts estimates that U.S. manufacturer’s sales of home organization products reached $8.5 billion in 2014.  The market grew at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.5% between 2010 and 2014 after growing at less than a 1% CAGR between 2006 and 2010.  The economic recovery, while slow and uneven, has propelled sales growth.  Pent up demand for garage and closet organization products as well as sheds and general storage products has further helped drive sales increases over the last several years. 

Challenging economic times have made consumers very cautious about spending on all purchases, especially those deemed discretionary.     But newly frugal Americans still have plenty of stuff to store and organize so demand exists and is growing for products that make life more organized, efficient, and less stressful.   The market is expected to continue on a recovery path and perform better than many other household product categories.   

Will aging Boomers hang on to their pets?

Dec. 31 - More than 200 million pets of all kinds enliven 65 million American households.  Dogs and cats in particular have kept their special place in American culture.  The vast majority of dog and cat owners consider their pets to be members of the family, and most owners think of their dogs or cats as being vital to their mental and physical health. 

Yet, while Americans’ love affair with their pets continues unabated, storm clouds may be brewing on the horizon for the pet industry.  As noted in Packaged Facts November 2014 report Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S., between 2009 and 2014 pet ownership as a whole has leveled off and ownership of most types of pets has declined, in some cases significantly.  The question for the pet industry is whether it will be possible to reverse these trends or whether it will be necessary to make strategic adjustments to take into account a shrinking population of pet owners.

Move over hot dogs and pretzels, the new wave of American street and grill foods reflect an international culinary experience

Dec. 5 - It wasn’t that long ago when street foods would too often bring to mind, for many American, ambivalent associations with foreign and “underdeveloped” countries, along with trepidations about cooking hygiene and food safety. 

Sure, nothing could be more American than street, fair, and festival foods such as pizza, hot dogs and corn dogs, soft  pretzels, ice cream and snow cones and cotton candy.  And there was even occasion for more pronouncedly ethnic or regional options.  Ordinarily speaking, nonetheless, street foods tended to be seen as make-shift meals for laborers who could not attain to sit-down dining.

The pendulum has swung very far in the other direction, with fresh, local, distinctive, and mouthwateringly good now being the primary associations for street food with fashionable consumers, and especially urban and millennial hipsters, according to Packaged Facts’ Street and Grill Foods: Culinary Trend Mapping Report

A new era for human-grade pet foods

Dec. 1 - You and your pet, sharing food? Yep. And we’re not talking about table scraps. The Yaff Bar energy bar is specifically designed to be shared between pets and their humans, boasting such tempting ingredients as Blueberries, puffed rice and “a touch of carob.”

In the natural, organic and eco-friendly pet food market, the “humanization” of pet products has grown to epic proportions, with human-grade foods perhaps representing the peak, according to a recent Packaged Facts pet report. At the forefront of this trend is The Honest Kitchen, which in 2014 went through the lengthy process of renewing its FDA approval for the use of the “human-grade” claim on all of its pet food labels. The process required The Honest Kitchen to provide detailed documentation from each of its suppliers attesting to the human-edible status of each ingredient, and to verify that all of its products are manufactured in a human food facility.

Online grocery services: Ready to rocket to over $100 Billion?

Nov. 12 - For more than a decade, the notorious failure of Webvan scared many potential entrants away from the online grocery business. Now, the field is swiftly becoming crowded with trials by competitors and new operating models, with online grocery services apparently poised to take off on a high growth trajectory, according to Online Food Shopping and Grocery Delivery in the U.S.: Future of Food Retailing by Packaged Facts.

Meeting at the crossroads of technology and service, online grocery shopping is one of the smallest retail segments for food and beverage sales, representing less than 4% of total retail sales of foods and beverages. Yet, it offers the grocery industry’s most exciting potential as the fastest growing channel in the grocery arena, with annual growth rates in the double digits.

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