Natural Foods Merchandiser

Make 2008's food trends work for your store

One thing I love about a new year is the flurry of food-trend articles published in the first few months. Woven within the multitude of lists are a few trends I hope stores will embrace because they make grocery shopping a more meaningful and bene?ficial experience for consumers. Chances are, stores that participate in the following trends will be rewarded with customer loyalty and bigger baskets at check-out.

Food safety
In 2007, an unprecedented number of food recalls rippled through the country, significantly affecting how customers feel about the food they eat. This has left many shoppers looking to stores for assurances, and will lead to greater discussion on food safety by government, growers and manufacturers in 2008.

Store owners can calm fears by knowing as much as possible about the foods in their store—where they're grown or raised, how they are manufactured and shipped, how the store handles food. Though the government has yet to enforce country-of-origin labeling, stores can help fill that gap. Give shoppers a back story about foods, and provide employees with answers to the questions customers may have, as well as useful information on proper storage, handling and preparation of foods.

Shopping experience
Food should be fun. Sure, it's a way to satisfy hunger, provide fuel to the body and nutrients to keep us healthy, but foods are also a feast of brilliant colors, mouth-awakening textures, and sweet and savory flavors. This year, one trend is to enhance the shopping experience, turning it from a chore to an enlightening event. Each store has to find its own method to capitalize on the beauty of food and leverage it. Engage as many of your customers' senses as possible and shift the shopping occasion from logic-driven drudgery to a more soulful, entertaining—yes, even sexy—experience.

Food attributes
There's an adage among nutritionists: "The more you know, the more you can eat." And it's true. The more one knows about food, how it's made or manufactured and which ingredients are healthful, the more food—and the more types of food—one can eat.

Developing new nutrition-rating systems for foods is one way to address custo?mers' interest in foods' attributes, but these systems can present food as more of a product of mathematics than a product of the land. They may pit foods against each other, presenting them for their components rather than as a beneficial, beautiful whole.

Capitalize on customer curiosity by offering more qualitative information. What does a?ai taste like? What does a person do with guava? What is the best way to prepare mahi mahi? How does one pick the perfect persimmon? We're exposed to more foods than ever before through television, global access and year-round availability, but many people are unsure how to turn their interest into something delicious to eat.

Feeling good about food
This is my favorite trend and one I'm heartened to see unfold. For years, we have felt guilty about fat, sodium or sugars, artificial and harmful additives or the way foods are grown or produced. Today, I find people ready for a different mindset.

Deliver on this trend by communicating the good news: Food is not the enemy—it's a pivotal part of our lives and a source of immense pleasure. Feeling bad, fearful or unsure about what we eat can lead to a host of dysfunctional food issues.

Stores are an excellent place to bring the fun back. Customers are more interested than ever in the nutritional value of foods, but how that information is presented will influence how they feel about what they eat. Embrace the multitude of attributes in wholesome, natural and organic foods. Revel in the good news about food—it's in every corner of the store.

Susan Moores, R.D., runs SDM Communications, a consulting firm specializing in food and health issues. Contact her at [email protected] or 651.653.4794.

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