Shifts in consumer beliefs and values around food are not only affecting the way people eat but also the role food plays in their lives. Some of the best thinking I’ve seen on these cultural changes comes from the Hartman Group, a recognized thought leader on food industry trends, who have taken a peek into history to understand them fully.
As the United States emerged from World War II, Americans were ready to embrace the normalcy of a stable life following the tumultuous war years. People sought reliability and predictability in the products they purchased. In this context, quality meant consistency–the kind of consistency that came from packaged food—which helped assure consumers that the products they purchased would be the same every time. It’s easy to understand why McDonald’s and Wonder Bread flourished during this time.
Fast forward to today, and quality is no longer defined solely by reliability and consistency. Today, consumers also want food that is real, whole, and made with fresh ingredients you recognize because they are in your own pantry. Ideally, this food is prepared, specifically for you, moments before you eat it.
In addition to how people think about quality, people are also changing the way they approach meals. For many years, eating was very structured with well-planned, “three square” meals a day. Everyone came to the table at the same time and ate together. Food was fairly functional. It was designed to fill the family up until their next meal and they were expected to eat everything on their plate.
The Rise of Snacking
The way we eat now has moved from this structured approach to a more spontaneous eating style. Currently, nearly half of all adult eating occasions happen alone,1 and rather than “three squares,” most people snack multiple times throughout the day. People eat when it fits into their schedule where ever they are, so we see more eating “on the go.” Food is often customized for each person by savvy purveyors like Starbucks, Chipotle, and others.
All of this is leading to the blurring of snacks and meals, where mini-meals serve as snacks and snack foods often serve as meals. Traditional snack food use is growing at all times of day, up double digits in the past three years at breakfast,2 for example. In addition to snacks serving as meals, new snacking occasions are emerging. The “pre-breakfast snack” might consist of a granola bar first thing in the morning, going to the gym for a workout, and then having an egg sandwich as an official “breakfast” post-workout.
Times of great change always bring opportunity. This is especially true in away-from-home eating. In non-commercial channels, snacking traffic grew seven percent in the past year—driven by growth in healthcare, lodging, and colleges and universities—while total traffic grew only one percent.3 Wherever our consumers’ lifestyle leads them, we can bring culinary solutions, fresh snacking, real foods, and experiences to people who are using and engaging with food in new ways throughout the day.
It’s a great time to be in the culinary space.
Entegra customers can see more on entegra contracted snacks, including those on the General Mills contract, by logging in and going to the purchasing section. Open My Purchasing Toolkit and see the National Suppliers section to see what is carried by your Prime distributor. You can also look at the Retail Guide.
Sharon Hoeting is Director of Consumer & Category Insights, General Mills Foodservice. General Mills is an entegra contracted supplier for snacks, yogurt and bakery products.
(1) Hartman Food Culture 2015
(2) NPD NET Snack Track 3YR change 2012-2015
(3) NPD CREST/ONSITE 12 months ending Dec 2015