10 Changes in Today’s Food Culture

The Hartman Group recently held its Food Culture Forecast 2015, and here are 10 takeaways describing how food culture is evolving:

7689144046_db7b0d476f_z1. Common food rituals are eroding and meal prep habits are changing

Half of all eating occasions are alone, and we’re no longer eating our three squares a day. Snacks are now nearly equal to the number of meal occasions, 49% vs. 51%. Despite the foodie movement, only 31% of dinners in 2014 were made from scratch, 6 in 10 dinners were planned within an hour of eating.

2. New symbols of food quality

Fresh, real and less processed are today’s cues for food quality; 28% of consumers look for foods that are minimally processed, 26% seek foods that contain only ingredients they recognize, and 25% say they watch for products that are local or have the shortest list of ingredients.

3. High-income “upmarket” consumers heavily influence food culture

The 9.5% of the population who live in households with incomes over $100K and who are college or higher educated are heavily influencing U.S. food culture, elevating the culinary and health awareness of other consumers.

4. New demands for healthy fare

High protein, fresh and less processed, “free-from” foods (e.g. dairy free), nutrient dense and easy-to-eat hand-to-mouth healthy snacks are among the new demands for healthy fare. Digestive superfoods, alternative slow carbs and lower-sugar content energy foods are other fast-emerging trends.


5. Consumers are channel hopping

Shoppers today are achieving “value” through multiple shopping trips and channels.  In 2014, 61% made 2-3 food shopping trips per week, visiting an average of three channels. Specialty/natural stores have the highest satisfaction and customer loyalty. Costco, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans are cited as offering a spontaneous and enjoyable experience.

6. Digital is redefining our interaction with food

Nearly half of smartphone users have recently used their device to order food delivery or to book or review a restaurant online. In 2014, 23% did some grocery shopping online, up from 18% in 2012. About 4 in 10 (39%) say they would trust a food website that has good photos, 70% used a recipe from a website or app.

7. Rise of millennials 

Millennials are focused on their health and care about the community, social issues and human treatment of animals more than their older counterparts. One-third of Millennials consider environmental concerns when buying food, 54% back companies that support the local community and 47% avoid buying foods from firms with poor labor practices.

8. Personalized eating ideologies

Consumers are experimenting with a new generation of eating behaviors, ranging from vegetable or plant-centric offerings to elimination, free-from, detox and food combination diets. There’s a growing interest in gut microbes and the soil in which food is grown.  FODMAP (fermentable oligiosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols) is the latest culprit blamed for digestive disorders. Growing interest in new sources of protein, including insects.

9. Changing face of eating out

Breakfast, small bites, eliminating additives/preservatives, the casualization of organic (and its penetration into all levels of foodservice) as well as all-day snacking are high-potential opportunities.


10. Food-sophisticated shoppers

Over the next five years, mid-market consumers are projected to become more selective and continue to upgrade their culinary and healthy-eating skills. The move to fresh will continue, and more products will try to convey a health halo through choice of ingredients, label statements, minimal processing and new technologies.



images:  Guian Bolisa, tortillas by Michelle  and tapas by Ian on flickr

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