Hot Food Trends: Part 3 – A Matter of Experience

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Aug 23, 2006
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By George
Anderson



No one knows with certainty what the hottest food trends
will be over the next several years, but The Hartman Group has focused on the
“why behind the buy” to look at four that may have a significant impact on the
business. RetailWire explores each of this series of discussions.


Food brands were king back in the 1950s and 1960s and, while still important, consumers are much more focused on what Jarrett Paschal, Ph. D. calls “food experiences.”


According to Dr. Paschal, these experiences bring with them different approaches to putting food on the table. Often, they are linked directly to a specific retail channel.


For example, during the week, busy working parents might opt to “outsource meal production” to a foodservice provider, be it a restaurant or retail store.


Another time, Dad may be in the mood for a little outdoor grilling and go to the neighborhood grocery market to pick up meats and produce.


Mom may want the experience of trying something from a favorite food magazine, cookbook or television show. This may involve a trip to the local grocer or, perhaps, a natural food store or gourmet market.


“Whatever the experience or occasion, branded products are simply far less relevant to the end goal (engaging meals) than they were 50 years ago, because few meal occasions and/or product experiences are ever staged around specific branded products,” according to Dr. Paschel. “Branded products may be useful in a pinch, or in the occasional lunch box or picnic basket, but branded food products are not the backbone of a compelling food experience.” 


Discussion Questions: From your perspective, what role
does brand (also store/restaurant banner) play in consumers’ food experience
choices? Do you think the brand equation (could be private label) is downplayed/misread
when assessing why consumers purchase certain products or buy from specific
outlets?

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6 Comments on "Hot Food Trends: Part 3 – A Matter of Experience"


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Ed Dennis
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Ed Dennis
14 years 6 months ago
One primary factor in my selection process is recommendations by friends. A few months back, a friend was raving about a frozen meal he bought at the grocery store. He indicated that it was as good or better than anything he could get in local restaurants for under $25. I followed his recommendation and found wonderful products sold under a brand name I had heard of but had never seen in a frozen food case. No amount of advertising would have enticed me to buy these products because they are expensive (over $6) but a rave recommendation sent me there with little hesitancy. While brands are important, sometimes the older players in a category get too much education and pass on products that have potential for any number of reasons. A new player often does a better job of reading the market and doesn’t let “experience” get in the way of a good thing. The one thing we have all learned over time is that NEW PRODUCTS are the lifeblood of the business. The problem… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
14 years 6 months ago

Like many people, I like some variety in satisfying my pallet and my emotions. For instance …

When I want to eat “fresh,” I think of Subway. When I want to eat fast, I think McDonald’s. When I have a craving for shrimp or lobster, the Red Lobster looms up. When home kitchen time is a bore, I opt to go to a nice-ambiance restaurant. When I want to have fun at meal time, I go to an Olive Garden or a lively bistro. When I want to be involved and prepare something special, I go to my favorite grocery and buy branded ingredients and have my wife cook, or I might even grill outside.

Thus, the variety of emotional preferences I experience seem to determine each day how important brand is to my dining pallet.

Herb Sorensen
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
The brand still provides hidden ballast in the consumer’s relationship to the product, for all the reasons that they always have – assurance at the head of the list. The challenge is keeping the brand alive in a world of new, young shoppers and the weakening glue of mass communication, like network TV. Now the brand is far more dependent on its point-of-purchase presence, both in introducing itself and in maintaining the relationship. There are two challenges facing the brand at the point-of-purchase. First is that brand management is still very new to that important “moment of truth.” The second challenge revolves around the retailers own poor understanding of that moment, compounded by their ambivalent support of the brand. Wal-Mart’s branding initiative with Saatchi is unlikely to redound to the benefit of packaged goods brands – and why should it? But Wal-Mart isn’t the only game in town. And brand management can understand – with proper study – the in-store moment, better than retailers – including Wal-Mart. Knowledge of in-store brand management is the power… Read more »
Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago
Some brands mean a heck of a lot. One clue: when your store is a couples’ “dating” site, your brand is hot. Who hasn’t seen the couples shopping together at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods? Both brands emphasize quality, changing assortments, and unique items. They actually spark discussion among the shoppers. The Barnes & Noble brand is strong because it’s a social catalyst. The special events, cafes and the nature of book browsing all reinforce socializing. Well, food is more social than reading! When Wal-Mart ended the singles nights, they shut off a terrific positioning. Of course, any other supermarket retailers can use that same idea and add supplier-subsidized tastings at the same time. Any supermarket can use focused community events to enhance the brand. Halloween is coming up. Why can’t supermarkets run focused events around creative Halloween foods for people of all ages? And many supermarkets already have cafes. Your brand is what you make it. If you do nothing special but copy everyone else, your brand won’t be very special.
Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 6 months ago
As we know, the process by which consumers select foods and meals to eat isn’t scientific, or predictable, at any margin of error. Interestingly, whether food ingredients (e.g., from supermarkets, produce and meat shops, etc.) are needed, or finished meals (e.g., from deli, neighborhood restaurant, national family and white table cloth chains, fast foods entities, etc.) are to be selected, the brand name that pops into the consumers’ minds bring a favorable past experience or comment made by a friend, or benefit seen seen/heard from a commercial. Brands are still very prevalent, assuring the quality, convenience and/or household satisfaction to shoppers. And the upscale private labels of foods and ingredients remain part of the formula for meal decision making. Like all food and beverage businesses and their brands, how you keep these brand names in front of and in the minds the consumer, and/or reenforce the positive meal experience, is the marketing question all businesses must address. And importantly, the current consumer/shopper demographics, usage frequency, and psychographics come into play. But, unfortunately, we all have… Read more »
Scott Turley
Guest
Scott Turley
14 years 6 months ago

In the grocery aisles, branded products continue to drive innovation. Most private label grocery products are “me-too” in nature. The consumer must first be exposed to innovation through trial, repeat, and conversion before adopting a new product into their eating habits. Currently, branded products are the only ones that spend the dollars to introduce change in the category and encourage that trial/repeat/conversion cycle through marketing.

As Dr. Paschel wrote in Part 2 of this series, “American consumers have always loved to have choices…” Until retailers adopt the innovative spirit, accept the risk that accompanies new product launches, and fund the introduction of new concepts in their private label grocery products, it will be the innovative brands that lead consumers down new flavor paths (and into the center section of the store). Therefore, the brands are extremely important in consumers’ food experience choices.

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