We may not be Italians or Frenchmen, but Americans love food. We love exploring new tastes, combining flavors, and pulling the soul out of what we eat.
Sterling Rice Group, a Boulder, Colo-based “food centric strategy and innovation firm” has compiled a proprietary list of “culinary shifts” affecting Americans and the way we eat today. They use this list to reach out to food manufacturers, both mainstream and natural, in helping them target their packaging, ingredients and marketing efforts more towards the populations greatly being impacted by these shifts. The editors at New Hope Natural Media attended a lunch today and learned about these shifts and how our readers can benefit from exploring them. Here are some ideas on how you can implement them in your store.
1.) Community connected
“As a society, we are so stressed,” Cathryn Olchowy, culinary director and managing director at SRG says. “People are looking for comfort and strength in their communities.”
SRG suggests the idea that as we become more engaged globally, we become less engaged locally so people are looking for ways to connect.
Real life example: Farm dinners and CSAs
How you can use it: Put up signs showing where your products come from. Profile the local farmers that grow the produce or raise the meat. As customers connect more with their food and the people who create it, they’ll connect more to your store.
2.) More with less
“We are incredibly wasteful as a society,” Olchowy says. Wanting to maximize the quality of goods on a budget “is here to stay.” With budget cutting being done on a national level, consumers are stretching their dollars without sacrificing quality.
Real life example: Peasant foods, Craigslist, “Cowpooling,” head-to-tail dinners
How you can use it: Hold classes in the meat department of what people can do with different cuts of meat they aren’t used to. Use shelf talkers to educate customers on heartier pastas and soups that fill up – on the cheap.
3.) Dr. Me
“Consumers expectations of what they are wanting to eat are going to change in the next ten years,” Olchowy says. As no surprise to naturals retailers, consumers are taking their health into their own hands. They know more about supplements, nutrition and conditions than ever before.
Real life example: Return of the company doctor, restaurants working with doctors
How you can use it: Stock doctor-approved product lines. Almost every SKU in the supps department is being backed by a new doctor – take advantage of this trend and sell books that correlate so consumers can educate themselves as well.
4.) Always on
We live in a plugged-in world. Seoul, South Korea is now a completely wired city, there are televisions everywhere and shoppers are using their mobile phones to do everything.
Real life example: uWink – a Los Angeles-based restaurant chain where you order via a screen that you then play games on while you wait.
How you can use it: Increase your online presence socially, offer customers coupons they can show you on their phones, tout your low prices by digitally displaying your competitors’ prices in a screen on your store.
5.) Luxury revalued
“We used to live with a lot more glitz and glam,” Kazia Jankowski, senior market analyst for SRG, says. As people cut back, they feel a need to “treat themselves,” according to SRG. Little luxuries like upscale food (on the cheap) or gourmet flavors are tempting Americans right now.
Real life example: The Dessert Truck in New York City, Beer becoming the next wine, more classic fashions on the runway
How you can use it: Kick your bakery up a notch while taking prices down. Have your bakers make beautiful miniature (gluten-free) cupcakes worthy of an art show that tempt customers because of the low price.
6.) Cultural curiosity
“We are a generation that is more traveled than any generation before us,” Jankowski says. “There are more multicultural people in positions of power and more access to different culture.”
It’s no secret that food companies are jumping on the multicultural train. And more specific regions are popping up and piquing our palate like Spain, Korea, and El Salvador. The more customers travel, the more they know the difference between real and fake ethnic flavors. “As we experience more authentic foods, we demand more authentic experiences,” Jankowsky says.
Real life example: Pupusas (El Salvador street faire), growing ethnic produce, Kim chi
How you can use it: Expand your ethnic section. Go to ethnic specialty stores to see what they are stocking and what’s selling – not only will you bring in more ethnic shoppers but Caucasian shoppers looking for ethnic experiences.
7.) Simple refuge
In a way, this shift is a response to “Always on,” in that we want to get away from it all and “find comfort in the familiar,” Jankowski says.
Real life example: Mac and cheese-only restaurants, Nap rooms, TV-less hotels, Slow food movement
How you can use it: Showcase your cocktail recipes as “cocktailing is coming back” as a nostalgia. Cross merchandise gimlet ingredients and bring in James Bond-style props.
8.) Break free
“People are really taking very public, very extreme ways of defining themselves,” Jankowski says. Chefs are thinking out of the box and combing flavor profiles never heard of before and looking to really define themselves by the unusual.
Real life example: spicy cocktails, savory deserts (like the Bacon cupcake), edible cocktails, ice cream all dinner courses
How you can use it: Infuse your deli meats with sweeteners like maple. Tempt your customers with over exaggerated uses of the word “glazed.”