2013 Predictions and Consumer Eating Trends

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2013 Trends and Predictions

Food editors, bloggers, and industry reporters are rolling out 2013 flavor and food buying trend opinions by the score. Been living under a rock and missed some of these predictions? Check out the Huffington Post’s predictions about dining out or PRNewswire’s exploration of trendy flavors for just a few examples of the avalanche of 2013 predictions.

After exploring all of the posts, stats, and research, not to mention doing a little secret shopping of our own, we’ve found that the 2013 trends come down to 3 key elements: mobile dining resources, prepared foods, and sophisticated ingredients.

While everyone talks about exciting new buzzwords like sustainability, local sourcing, and numerous flavor trends, there is one huge consumer trend we cannot ignore that is changing entire industries — the mobile use of the internet!

The internet is going to be used by more mobile users than computer users starting in 2013. We predict that consumers will spend more time on their phones, exploring social media, text messaging, apps, online news, media, and, of course, shopping. Apps like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and Zagat to Go will help consumers stop and eat at a great place the very minute they are hungry, while food diary apps like MyNetDiary and Spark People Diet and Food Tracker offer ways to track each calorie consumed.

Another aspect that is seriously influencing buying habits, which we believe will play a role in 2013 dining trends, is a shift away from restaurant dining. Disposable income is down while personal expenditures are up. Nation’s Restaurant News shows that spending is down in restaurants, which prompts them to make their own predictions about the ramifications of this trend in 2013.

This transition precisely validates the idea that busy people want to get fed in less time and with less money on a day-to-day basis, and it is one element that drives all of our healthful cooking education programs.

While people aren’t dining out as much, they sure do seem to be buying lots of prepared food. Every year, we see the prepared food offerings increase in all of the stores we visit. The “home-style” buffet and fresh prepared food choices rival those of most restaurants. Plus, the food in these layouts is usually cheaper and easier to access. You don’t even need to call ahead to order it — it’s all kept hot and ready at the store. For example, Whole Foods has a hot buffet every day and you can take hot food to go — right to your home or office. I admit to doing this on many a Friday night because my son is too busy with school to go out. In fact, we haven’t been out to eat in months!

Grocery stores are following this prepared food trend in the meat, deli, and produce sections as well. The produce aisle offers many varieties of fresh fruit, salads, prepared vegetables such as stir fry mixes, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed squashes, and salsas. And the deli has all sorts of prepared items you can take home and reheat such as pizza, dips, wraps, sandwiches, and entire hot meal buffets.

Did you notice that many raw ingredient food categories are also shrinking? There are not as many ice cream or frozen yogurt choices, the jelly selections on shelves have shrunk, it is harder to find low-fat or nonfat dairy items, and dried beans are not as plentiful. Seafood is more expensive and fresh meats have been overtaken by prepared and flavored items.

Caveat: I do not have hard core stats on these observations about raw ingredients, only my experience driving the shopping cart each week.

The third trend we predict for 2013 is that both food ingredients and prepared foods will be more sophisticated. Did you see the lemon Buddha’s hand in the produce aisle? Or the purple potatoes? Or the mango salsa? Or the super-green mixes of lettuce? Or the heirloom tomatoes? Or the balsamic vinegar that is now turned into a glaze and flavored with pomegranate? Everyone wants something remarkable.

Remarkable is where the food manufacturers are going. And food equipment manufacturers and purveyors like Williams and Sonoma are making it easier for consumers to prepare items that a professional chef would have once struggled with at work. Our FNCE food exhibit report reflects this trend (and was the most popular blog post we’ve written to-date), and being remarkable drives the creation of our new education products as well. If you want to read even more case studies about the role of being remarkable, I suggest the book, The Purple Cow, by Seth Godin.

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