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.

Human/animal bond … in theaters everywhere as art imitates life

Nov. 3 - This week, animal lovers and kids of all ages will be treated to a new six-minute short entitled Feast from Disney Animation.  The story debuts on November 7, 2014 with the release of the company’s new film Big Hero 6.  The short features a Boston terrier named Winston.  A blog post on Disney’s website describes the film as follows:  “Feast is the story of a newly adopted dog named Winston who bonds with his owner through a series of delicious meals—or at least the scraps thereof, delivered to his dog bowl, and sometimes onto the floor.” 

Pet food marketers have long known about this human/animal bond.  Some recent marketing initiatives have placed extra focus on it, according to Pet Food in the U.S., 11th Edition.

Annie’s GMO conundrum

Oct. 8 – Last month, cereal king General Mills Inc. (GM) announced it was acquiring Annie’s Homegrown Inc. for approximately $820 million. Known for its macaroni and cheese and its bunny logo, Annie’s is a well-known natural and organic food producer, and very much conveys the feeling of a small environmentally-oriented company even with $204 million in sales reported for fiscal year 2013, according to Natural and Organic Foods and Beverages in Canada by Packaged Facts.

There have been the usual derogatory cries from avid Annie’s lovers saying the deal is nothing less than Annie’s selling out to a major corporation, a situation that occurs every time a corporate giant acquires a smaller, more environmentally focused company. However, there is one aspect of this negative response that is going to get more press down the road—the respective company’s stances on genetically modified organisms (GMO) in food products. For many of the current (and vocal) Annie’s customers, this is seen as nothing less than Annie’s selling out on an extremely important problem.

A new era for dieters

September 25 - Recent research suggests that the upward trend in obesity that has vexed public health officials for decades may have leveled out, while the healthy eating movement remains on the upswing.  Still, nearly 100 million Americans are watching their diet to lose weight or to maintain their current weight.  Successful weight management remains a tough and never-ending battle for many Americans trying to stay on a traditional diet plan.  The majority of overweight Americans find that the very idea of a strict diet poses an obstacle to their weight loss desires.  Most agree that they would like to lose weight but assert that they find it too hard to stick to a strict diet plan or eating strategy.  Moreover, dieters trying to stick to their current diet plan or eating strategy face challenges from all sides, especially from the temptation posed by foods they crave but aren’t supposed to eat.  As a result, a majority of those on a diet plan have been on it for less than nine months.

Yet, although traditional views of dieting remain an important part of American culture, there are significant changes now underway in the way Americans think about their weight and what to do about it.  An August 2014 Packaged Facts report (Weight Management: U.S. Consumer Mindsets) takes an in-depth look at the transformation that is now underway in the culture of weight management in America. 

Shopping for meat in all the right places

September 10 - “Free Range,” “Grass Fed,” “All Natural,” “Pasture Raised” – it all sounds so appealing how can any meat eater resist? And, in fact, plenty don’t. From all evidence, the market for beef, pork, lamb, bison, and venison raised in idyllic conditions is growing steadily. The USDA reports that meat (along with fish and poultry) has been the fastest growing component of the overall organic food market over the last decade. In addition, according to research from the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) the U.S. had an estimated 2.3 million acres of certified organic pasture and rangeland in 2012, up from just a half million acres in 2000.

As published in Branded Refrigerated Meats and Meals: U.S. Market Trends, Packaged Facts online survey of 2,000 U.S. adults (census representative on the primary demographic measures of gender, age, geographic region, race/ethnicity, presence of children in the household, and household income) conducted in April and May 2014 found that well over half of the respondents (57%) regularly buy more healthful meat items. Only about 10% said they did not. Further, almost the identical percentages apply, agreeing and disagreeing, to the statement “I Regularly Buy Higher-Quality Meat Items.”

The science and religion of nutritional supplements

September 4 - Discussion of the merits of nutritional supplements can be tricky, in the same way topics such as politics and religion are sometimes best avoided. That’s because you have two very polarized types of people when it comes to supplements: the “true believers” who believe that the supplements they take help to keep them healthy, and may have personally experienced positive results from taking specific supplements, and the “unfaithful,” who may point to studies that prove (to them) that vitamins and minerals are a waste of money at best or harmful to health at worst.  In between you have your “agnostics,” those who believe that supplements might do some good, but are generally not motivated to take much action or to incur much expense on the basis of that mild belief.

Luckily, it is at this point where the religion analogy starts to break down. After all, people are much more willing to try new supplements than to try a new religion. The key to real sales growth in the supplements industry is in that “agnostic” market, the same segment of the market that all the good and bad press surrounding nutritional supplements is more likely to sway one way or the other.

Ben & Jerry’s includes “everything but” GMOs, setting new standards and taking risks in U.S. ice cream industry

August 22 - For many Americans, Ben & Jerry's is synonymous with ice cream. Not only does the range of delectable flavor combinations appeal to consumers of all palate preferences, but many get a kick out of the often whimsical names given to the brand’s products, be they freezer aisle staples such as Cherry Garcia or limited edition flavors like the Liz Lemon frozen Greek yogurt named after Tina Fey’s iconic 30 Rock character.

Yet for all the clever marketing gambits, Ben & Jerry’s takes the responsibility of providing conscientiously crafted ice cream very seriously. In mid-2013, the company announced intentions to completely eliminate genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its products over the next few years. The switch is ongoing with several notable ingredient adjustments already in place.

Despite the national debate over GMOs, Ben & Jerry’s non-GMO commitment is not without its risks.

The Neandrathal didn’t eat yogurt, but in the age of brogurt, today’s man does

How Greek yogurt has helped pave the way for a manly yogurt

August 13 - News that Dannon Yogurt, the U.S., New York-based subsidiary of Danone, signed a new marketing contract with the National Football League (NFL) as its official yogurt sponsor may have come as a surprise to many. Food Navigator U.S.A., a food industry trade publication (July 30, 2014), reported a deal for the 2015 season, following Super Bowl ads placed in 2012 and 2014. For yogurt-makers, ongoing ad placement in front of a male-centric sport (60% male viewership, according to Scarborough Sports Marketing), like American football, is something of a recent development in the U.S.

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