- Demand for transparency, convenience, healthy solutions and flavorful snacks fueled perishable food growth in 2018, according to a new report from Nielsen. The report tracked trends across the consumer product goods landscape throughout last year.
- Looking ahead at 2019, there are a few key trends on the horizon. "Healthy swaps" — whether chosen for weight loss or better overall health — are increasingly popular among consumers. Sweet corn and jack fruit are notable swaps expected to grow in popularity this year.
- The American palate is also evolving as culturally diverse influences become more prevalent. Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern flavors are influencing products on store shelves, particularly when it comes to fruits and herbs. Sales of dragon fruit, which is used in Latin American, South American and Asian dishes, have increased at a rate of 33% over the past five years. Sales of turmeric have grown at a rate of 76% over the same period.
Consumers’ desire to find healthier and more adventurous food options has had a major impact across the industry, and has been a boon for the perishables sector. The Nielsen report highlights people's demand for more information on what they’re eating and how it was produced — and they want it to be readily available.
Healthy swaps are a key trend that help consumers stay within the bounds of their diets while indulging their taste buds. Last year could be considered the "year of cauliflower" as the craze over the vegetable led to substitutes for pizza crusts, rice, hash browns and fritters. Mushrooms, mixed with beef, have become a popular way to make a healthier burger. Predictions for the year ahead show jackfruit, which is showing in everything from burgers to smoothies and pizza, gaining popularity with dollar sales up 79%. Nielsen suggests keeping an eye on sweet corn as a possible successor to the cauliflower throne.
The report’s findings on the growth in popularity of ethnic foods can be linked to several factors including immigration trends and increased global travel. Technomic’s 2018 Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report noted that one-third of people eat ethnic food once a week and are willing to pay more for it. Grocers have already caught on to this trend and have been offering more global cuisine options in both prepared meals and as ingredients. As consumers are willing to pay more for these products, grocers should consider finding the right products that are authentic and diverse.
Shoppers continue to focus on healthy living, with 37% following a specific diet. The top two growth drivers in-store are chicken and salads, while deli items containing vegetables and low-fat meats are seeing a surge. At the same time, healthy snacks and snacks that come in small sizes are seeing growth as well. Consumers in Generation Z are more likely than millennials to snack between meals and prepare simple meals — but are also interested in healthy items — which creates a great opportunity for products that are fast, simple and nutritious.
Given the ongoing trend toward healthy eating, consumers are seeking out options that are portable and diet-focused. Manufacturers should be considering more products that marry nutrition and convenience as well as keeping an eye on global influences that can be incorporated into healthy and delicious products, and grocers should evaluate their own private label items as well as their prepared food offerings in-store.