Understanding Consumer Change is Key to Success

How to meet the lifestyle needs and changing preferences of today’s demanding consumers was one item on the menu as nearly 100 senior snack food industry executives gathered in Baltimore, Md., for the Snack Food Association’s 2006 Management Workshop, Nov. 9-10.
Dr. Richard George, professor of food marketing at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia and an expert in food marketing strategy, consumer behavior, retailing, and customer service, told attendees that it is critical for successful food marketers to understand these four key drivers:
• The impact of time pressures on today’s consumers
• The changing demographic face of America
• Concerns about food and health
• The fact that traditional channels “are history”

According to George, these factors will affect the success of snack food manufacturers and retailers as they seek to build their businesses in the future. With many American consumers working 50 hours or more per week, 100 million sleep-deprived people and 61% of adults skipping meals, convenience will continue to have the biggest impact on the food industry, he said.
George also pointed out that by the year 2030, 20% of the population will be 65 years of age or older, compared with 12% in 2000. By 2010, he predicted, the 55-64 age group will grow by 19 million, while the 25-34 age group will decline by 1 million.
In addition, he said, life expectancy has increased significantly, and most Americans are living longer and want to experience those years in good health.  
Meanwhile, flavors and ingredients have moved to center stage as consumers increasingly look for more options, according to a panel of experts.
Jeffrey Magee, president and CEO of Jeff Magee International, discussed how companies can “Create and Extraordinary Organization.” In addition, Gray Campbell of Power Systems Group, the SFA’s energy consultant, discussed how companies can lower energy costs.
Tom Dempsey, senior vice president for sales and marketing for Utz Quality Foods, Inc. and incoming SFA Chairman (2007-2008), also addressed attendees and discussed how Utz earned its reputation as a leading snack food company and has continued to grow because of its focus on quality and commitment to customers, vendors and the community.
The program wrapped up with a tour of Domino Foods’ Baltimore facility and a networking reception hosted by Brian Malloy, president and CEO of Domino Foods.
“This was an outstanding workshop program, and I want to express my appreciation to all of those companies that were sponsors and helped to make it possible,” said SFA president and CEO Jim McCarthy.