Foodservice: The Baker’s Dozen

FARE speakers detail 13 seismic shifts in consumer behavior

"It's a consumer’s world. We’re just living in it.”

When you look at it that way, it’s easy and exciting to digest—pun not intended—the 13 overarching trends in foodservice offered in the opening general session of FARE 2014, held June 16-18 at the Gaylord Texan Hotel in Grapevine, Texas.

Leading attendees through the trends were CSP Business Media’s Kay Segal, senior vice president of trade relations and conference education; and Abbie Westra, editor in chief of Convenience Store Products.

What follows are the trends affecting those satisfying moments.

Seven in 10 foodservice purchases today are consumed off-premise, according to the National Restaurant Association. That’s a complete flip from how meals were consumed 50 years ago, Westra said.

Fifteen percent of all meals purchased are consumed within one hour of that purchase, according to The Hartman Group. “Consumers expect convenient yet high-quality foods around every corner,” Westra said. “How do you capitalize on that?”

Half of all eating occasions are snacks, according to The Hartman Group, but only 6% of those snacks come from foodservice.

Forty-seven percent of all eating occasions consist of a single person eating alone. Can you lure that singleton with customizable meals, or offer communal tables for folks who want to join a group?

There’s a huge generational divergence in baby boomers vs. millennials. How can you appeal to both without alienating one?

Nearly three-fifths of consumers think a lot about the healthfulness of their foods and beverages, according to the International Food Information Council. And functional foods are something that consumers want, especially in our frantic society.

Three in four consumers purchase organic foods, according to The Hartman Group. “Organic took off when its positioning changed from ‘Save the planet’ to ‘Save yourselves,’ ” Segal said.

Affordable luxuries rule the day: Consumers now take the time to treat themselves with items such as a $4 Starbucks drink or $6 fresh-pressed juice. How can you fulfill that need for indulgence?

More than 50% of consumers say it’s important for restaurants to integrate technology into their ordering capabilities, according to Technomic.

While e-commerce isn’t directly affecting foodservice, it is changing consumer habits and delivering on their need for customization, curation and convenience.

The breakfast battle is heating up again. Who will win? “It’s all about freedom of choice,” Westra said, “and consumers have always had the upper hand.”

The flavor forecast calls for “big, bold, authentic.” In the past 12 months, there has been a 12% increase in the term “hot sauce” showing up on all foodservice menus, according to Food Genius.

Today, brand value is no longer merely about price; it’s about social responsibility, transparency and interaction. Sixty-three percent of consumers say they’re more likely to visit an operation if it’s socially conscious, according to Technomic, and the definition of socially conscious varies from consumer to consumer.