Nebraska Farm Bureau News is taking a closer look at the trends in how food is produced, sold and consumed. We asked Marty Jarvis, marketing director for B&R Stores in Lincoln about his take on consumer food trends in Nebraska.
B&R Stores, Inc., is an employee-owned corporation headquartered in Lincoln, Neb. The company currently owns 18 stores located in seven cities across Nebraska and Iowa and employs more than 2,000 people, nearly 1,000 of which are employee owners. The stores include Super Saver, Russ’s Market, Apple Market and Save Best grocery stores.
Jarvis has been working for B&R Stores for more than 30 years and as marketing director for the company, he has a pulse on what consumers look for on their local grocery store shelves.
Below is a list of the top five consumer food trends and some popular ‘superfoods’ in Nebraska. These trends have a direct correlation to how people buy food in today’s society.
Trend #1 – Health
Eating healthy is popular with consumers right now. Some people look for that silver bullet to give them healthier eating habits and being gluten-free is the silver bullet for some. A gluten-free diet is used by people with celiac disease.
“But, eating gluten-free is gaining popularity with people who don’t even have the disease,” Jarvis said March 8.
Studies show that nutrition and healthy eating habits are top meal planning priorities for Baby Boomers. Boomers are all 50+ and health is a bigger concern as people age.
“Boomers are expected to control more than half of the dollars spent on grocery foods by 2015, look for more heart-healthy, antioxidant-rich foods including oily fish such as salmon, as well as green tea, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, popcorn, berries and whole grains to move faster off supermarket shelves,” said Jarvis.
Grocery stores are also giving food they sell health ratings. “The Guiding Star System is used in our stores and it helps consumers to decipher if the food they purchase is good for their overall health, or not so good,” he said.
Trend #2 – Economy
Right now the economy is in a downturn and consumers are trading down from brand names to store brands.
“Store brands are increasing in the percentage of overall sales at grocery stores. You can use steaks as an example of this trade down effect as people buy more sirloin steak rather than New York Strips, or they will buy the store brand canned vegetables because the cost is less. It’s all because inflation is outpacing their pay,” Jarvis said.
Trend #3 – Technology
The newest wave of technology includes smartphones that will reshape the way consumers interact with and purchase food. Consumers are using their mobile devices to shop, compare prices, check ads and find recipes.
“We continue to have a different marketing strategy at grocery stores,” Jarvis said. “For example, kale is becoming a popular vegetable, and once it is purchased consumers look at how to cook, store it and how long it will last after cooking. Smartphones give us product information instantly.”
Trend #4 – Ethnic Food
Pizza and tacos use to be considered ethnic foods, but now they are American foods. But there is a growing demand by Hispanic, Oriental and Muslim customers for grocery stores to carry more authentic items, such as hummus, Sriracha sauces from Thailand, ghost peppers from India and the habañero from Mexico.
“We try to provide a variety of authentic foods, spices and sauces as more and more consumers are venturing out to try different dishes,” Jarvis said.
Trend #5 – Household Size
In urban areas households seem to be shrinking. There are more households with no children or smaller family households.
“Grocery stores are redesigning packaging. Instead of selling a whole cake in the bakery, we now sell more half cakes or cake by the slice. In our deli and meat departments we sell single serving packages of food. The trend is to avoid food waste. More consumers are starting to visit the grocery store more often,” he said.
Experts say dozens of easy-to-find ‘superfoods’ can help ward off heart disease, cancer, cholesterol and more. Those superfoods include whole grain, ancient grains like quinoa grain, kale and dark meat chicken.
“Greek yogurt has been trendy the last several years. Dark meat chicken is also making a comeback,” Jarvis said. “The one thing you need to keep in mind here is that those who are trading down in the grocery store are not as likely to buy superfoods.”
Consumers are also using more vegetable stocks, brown rice and healthy grains when preparing meals. So you’ll see diverse vegetables and products in grocery stores because that is what consumers are asking for. What consumers want, grocery stores will provide, Jarvis said.