The “Supermarket Guru,” ConAgra Foods’ consultant Phil Lempert, has come up with his annual trend forecast that indicates supermarkets are making dramatic changes in response to the demands of an evolving consumer. Here are Lempert's Top 10 Trends for 2014:
Breakfast protein: Supermarkets and food manufacturers are responding to consumers' desire for a more protein-packed breakfast by stocking new breakfast products such as more varieties of Greek yogurt and ConAgra's Egg Beaters. Breakfast now is “much more focused on the protein source,” Lempert says.
More pre-made breakfast sandwiches, oatmeal bars and frozen breakfast entrees are cropping up that people can buy and bring to work to heat up, says Hy-Vee store spokeswoman Ruth Comer. Hy-Vee’s new Plattsmouth, Neb., store has a full-service restaurant serving breakfast daily.
International foods: Growing Latino and Asian populations, coupled with increasing consumer demand for variety, are bringing more “global flavors” to the supermarket, Lempert says. International food products are gaining distribution in mainstream grocery stores. “We’re going to see more and more of that as those populations continue to rise much faster than our Caucasian population does,” he says.
Hy-Vee is expanding its selections of international prepared foods, such as Chinese food and sushi, Comer says. It’s also bringing in new bulk spices as customers’ interest in cooking with international flavors grows.
Click to cook: Stores are trying to make things easier for shoppers who use their mobile phones to shop. Lempert sees more shoppers using the Web to plan meals, make grocery lists and then find the items in aisles. He says that in a recent online ConAgra Foods survey, one-third of consumers reported using their mobile phone while at the grocery store, most often to refer to shopping lists and recipes.
In 2014, he says, more stores will let customers order online and pick up the fulfilled order from a drive-up window. “It's really a very easy way to satisfy customers,” he adds.
Healthful snacking: People are eating fewer prepared meals and more snacks, reports NPD Group research, but they also want to eat healthful foods. As a result, 60% of new snack food products are positioned as “better for you,” Lempert says, citing Innova Market Insights.
The Millennials' influence: Millennial shoppers are forcing supermarkets to participate in social media and online sales channels. Lempert predicts more grocers will start sharing recipes and products on sites like Pinterest. And supermarkets will have to evolve their online shopping and delivery options to compete with or connect with services like Google Shopping Express, a new home-delivery service available only in California. “I think you're going to see it ramp up very quickly,” he notes.
Also on the list are private brands, which have seen a real boon of late; Indie women, which Lempert describes as a new type of shopper who lives alone, is too busy working and socializing to plan menus: the growth of gathering places in supermarkets; evolving food packaging to reflect cleaner labels, and containers like pouches and cartons for soup and wine; and community causes, as more stores and manufacturers broaden their community service work.