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Spending in the Name of Love

February 8, 2018

Consumers will shell out a near-record $19.6 billion on Valentine’s Day.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $143.56 on Valentine’s Day as 55% of the population celebrates this year, an increase from last year’s $136.57, according to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Total spending is expected to reach $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year. The numbers are the second-highest in the survey’s 15-year history, topped only by the record $146.84 and $19.7 billion seen in 2016.

“Americans are looking forward to pampering and indulging their loved ones with flowers, candy, dinner and all of the other Valentine’s Day stops,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, in a press release. “With the holidays behind them and the winter months dragging along, consumers are looking for something to celebrate this time of year.”

This year’s survey found consumers plan to spend an average $88.98 on their significant other/spouse ($12.1 billion), $25.29 on other family members such as children or parents ($3.5 billion), $7.26 on children’s classmates/teachers ($991 million), $7.19 on friends ($982 million), $5.50 on pets ($751 million) and $4.79 on co-workers ($654 million). Those between the ages of 25 and 34 will be the biggest spenders at an average of $202.76.

Those celebrating Valentine’s Day plan to spend $4.7 billion on jewelry (given by 19%), $3.7 billion on an evening out (35%), $2 billion on flowers (36%), $1.9 billion on clothing (17%), $1.5 billion on gift cards/gift certificates (15%) and $894 million on greeting cards (46%). More consumers plan on purchasing candy this year, with 55% (up from 50%) saying they will give gifts of candy for a total of $1.8 billion.

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Gen Z’s Food Expectations Set the Bar High

January 29, 2018

Flavor, function and authenticity are key demands from Generation Z.

Gen Z is coming of age, and their food preferences are likely to give food marketers some challenges.

Generation Z, those born 1997 to present, now represent 27% of the U.S. population, a larger group than Millennials, and although only older Gen Zs are entering adulthood, their impact on the food industry is already being felt, finds a new study by The NPD Group, a global information company.

Gen Zs, many of whom were raised by Gen Xers, grew up understanding the purpose of food and how it fits into a well-lived life. As a result this generational cohort has set expectations that food and food brands will follow their needs and not the other way around.

By virtue of their upbringing, Gen Zs are unintentional foodies and were brought up in a culture that talks about, celebrates and entertains with food, according to the recently released NPD report, “Make it Happen for Gen Zs.” They are told at an early age what their food can do for them in terms of functional and nutritional value and not just how it tastes, bringing a new definition to the “value” of food. Gen Zs, like the Millennials, prefer food and beverages with transparent labeling and an absence of artificial ingredients; skeptical of big brands and too many label claims, finds the NPD report, which takes a holistic look at the attitudes, behaviors and voices of Gen Zs.

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Big Year for the Big Game

January 26, 2018

Consumers are expected to spend $15.3 billion on this year’s Super Bowl.

American adults are expected to spend $15.3 billion as an estimated 188.5 million people watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl next month, according to the annual survey released by National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. Projected viewership is the same as last year but total spending is up 8.5% from $14.1 billion in 2017.

“Whether throwing their own party, heading to a friend’s house or gathering at their favorite bar or restaurant, consumers are ready to spend on the big game,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a press release. “Super Bowl shoppers will find retailers well-stocked on decorations, apparel, food and all other necessities to cheer on their favorite team.”

Of the 76% of those surveyed who plan to watch the game, 82% say they will purchase food and beverages—up slightly from 80% last year—and the highest in the survey’s history. Those between the ages of 25 and 34 will spend the most of any age group at an average of $118.43.

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2018 Ingredient Trends to Watch

November 24, 2017

Packaged Facts outlines the latest in culinary innovation.

Consumer palates are continuously looking for the next best taste treat, whether it’s pulling from the familiar or moving toward the more adventurous.

Cauliflower, eggs Benedict, macaroni and cheese, meatballs, olives, brown butter, figs, and Earl Grey tea among restaurant and food retail ingredients to watch in the New Year.

The latest wave of culinary innovation is cooking up inspiration and innovation based more on the familiar than the exotic or foreign, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the new report “New Spins on Standards 2017: Culinary Trend Tracking Series.”

“One doesn’t have to look very far to find the ‘next sriracha’ or ‘matcha tea’,” said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Culinary trends in 2018 will be inspired by familiar comforts from our childhoods but with artisanal, indulgent, and downright delicious reimaginings that satisfy the appetites of traditionalists and foodies alike.”

In New Spins on Standards 2017: Culinary Trend Tracking Series, Packaged Facts identifies more than a dozen foods, beverages, and ingredients that will trend in 2018 and beyond. Here are a few highlights:

Cauliflower at Center & Side – Thanks to such factors as the growing locavore trend and the increased cost of traditional protein, restaurants are designing more menu items that showcase fresh vegetables. Cauliflower benefits from its versatility as it can be prepared in many different ways, including global preps such as Indian curries and fritters and Italian pasta.

Eggs Benedict Trending Across Dayparts – Eggs Benedict have inspired newfangled dedicated restaurant concepts. Increased experimentation and multi-culturalism with omelets has opened the door for more Benedict experimentation, especially now that the breakfast, brunch, and late night (think breakfast all day) dayparts are getting truly creative attention.

Mac & Cheese Beyond the Box – This much-beloved comfort food is being adapted and re-adapted into many forms and fancies. Beyond menu presence as a signature entree or as a premium side dish, mac & cheese is being merchandised as a sociably shareable, Millennial-baiting food plate; as a fried bite-sized snack, bar food or alternative to French fries; and in mash-ups atop sandwiches or poured into poutine.

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How Mobile Can Set Your Franchise Apart

October 23, 2017

Research shows that 65 percent of customers would choose one brand over another based on the appeal of a mobile app alone.

The competition among franchise brands is getting fierce. Many of the top-performing retail and fast food service brands are franchises, such as 7-11, UPS, and Krispy Kreme. As more enter the market, breaking through the noise and setting your franchise apart is critical. Franchise brands (or franchisors) sometimes make the mistake of viewing mobile as a tool that’s only for online businesses, and even as a tool that is their adversary. However, harnessing mobile to increase sales and enhance your in-store customer experience can be a defining decision for brick-and-mortar franchises.

Research shows that 65 percent of customers would choose one brand over another based on the appeal of a mobile app alone, and for customers and businesses alike, saving time and money is appealing. Although many franchise brands might have an app, it’s not about the mere availability of it, but the user experience and the benefit it can provide to customers. Here’s how franchises can use mobile to set their brand apart and the bottom-line benefits that come with doing so.

Empower your customers to order via mobile

Customers have seen how easy it is to place an order and pick it up without wasting time in line. They don’t want to go back. Brands that have been around for a long time like Dunkin’ Donuts or Domino’s see this growing trend and are already allowing customers to order ahead on an app rather than stand in line. And now, new franchise brands are popping up that incorporate mobile almost immediately. Soon after Blaze Pizza was founded in 2011, they launched an app that allowed for customers to order ahead, track reward points and get special deals. Blaze Pizza now has 173 franchise locations in 32 US states and Canada. By 2020, mobile ordering will account for 10.7 percent of all quick-service sales, which translates into a $38 billion business.

Recently, I spoke to Blaze Pizza CEO & president Jim Mizes about what mobile means for their business.

“Once our customers use our app they discover the benefits of loyalty and easy mobile payment. For example, we use mobile offers to surprise and delight our app users.” Mizes says. “We’ve made mobile a focus because we continue to see strong correlation between higher app usage and higher same store sales.”

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Is Voice Activation the Next Big Ordering Trend?

October 13, 2017

An estimated 25 percent of 16–24-year-olds use voice search on mobile. Is your brand ready?

Alexa: Order a pizza. Pay for it. Oh, and eat it for me.

Well, the burgeoning world of voice activation isn’t quite there yet. But, much like mobile ordering became the go-to place for millennials and Gen Z to score their meals, voice-activated ordering is fast evolving into fast food’s next big thing.

The numbers are mind-boggling. An estimated 25 percent of 16–24-year-olds use voice search on mobile, reports the Global Web Index. Some 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, estimates comScore. A whopping 50 percent of people are now using voice search when researching products, says the website Social Media Today.

A lot to swallow? Perhaps. But for quick-service and fast-casual chains with one eye on sales growth and another eye on the future, voice-activated ordering already is in fourth gear. Major chains from Domino’s to Pizza Hut to Wingstop to KFC are embracing voice activation—though none claim to have perfected it.

Few chains are pushing harder in the world of voice-activated ordering than Wingstop, the Dallas-based chain known for its chicken wings. With takeout being such a huge part of Wingstop’s business—making ordering ahead increasingly common—it launched voice-activated ordering early in 2017.

The key target is millennials. “Voice activation has become common in their homes and on their phones,” says Kevin Fish, vice president of digital technology at Wingstop, which has 1,031 locations globally and is in all 50 states.

Wingstop was an early adopter of digital ordering, rolling out the platform in 2009. Fast-forward to today and digital ordering across all channels—including voice activation—now accounts for more than 20 percent of sales, Fish says. Its recent move to use Amazon’s Alexa “forced us to rethink the ordering process from the ground up,” he says.

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Despite Concerns Consumers Continue Sugar Consumption

October 6, 2017

Market place isn’t “one-size fits all” NPD Group report shows.

More than 50% of U.S. adults and teens report that they’re trying to consume less sugar, according to the NPD Group. However, old habits die hard.

With the average person consuming almost three times the recommended amount of sugar every day, or what amounts to 66 pounds of sugar per person annually, it’s not an easy habit to break. The workaround for many consumers is to decide what they’re really willing to give up and then they keep some sweet choices in their diets.

The decision on what to keep and what not to keep eating in terms of sugary foods varies by generations with some acting on their concern and others just saying their concerned but not acting on it, according to NPD’s “Impact of Sugar Concern on Consumption Behavior: What We Say vs. What We Do” report. Older Boomers and Silent G.I.’s, who may be managing diabetes or other illnesses, are an example of a generation that is cutting out more sweet foods from their diets.

When deciding which sugary foods to keep in or out of their diets consumers tend to separate them into categories, like more healthful versus indulgent sugary foods, finds the NPD study, which looks at the impact of consumer choice on 40 different sweet foods and beverages. Cola drinks and fruit juices both contain a fair amount of sugar. Consumers are more likely to cut back on cola drinks than fruit juices because they feel that juice has more nutritional benefits and the sugar is naturally occurring.

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Not Just Another Breakfast Sandwich

July 29, 2017

Ethnic-style handhelds, stuffed varieties and big flavors are on trend

he ubiquitous breakfast sandwich has owned the morning for years. Whether in a c-store or limited-service restaurant, the egg, cheese and meat build has stood the test of time.

But innovation marches on.

The breakfast daypart is at peak popularity, and breakfast sandwiches are king. Fifty-five percent of c-store consumers purchase breakfast from a c-store at least once a month, and 51% of those consumers say that they choose breakfast sandwiches when they’re there, according to Chicago-based Technomic’s most recent C-Store MarketBrief data.

As c-stores explore new options to meet this demand, some distinct flavor and preparation trends are emerging.

Globally inspired fare is worth watching. Ruiz Foods, Dinuba, Calif., has added a new breakfast handheld to its El Monterey line. The Breakfast Empanada features a light, flaky pastry crust filled with egg, sausage, cheese and potato. The item takes its inspiration from traditional Latin American cuisine—a plus for the 55% of consumers who say they want c-stores to offer more ethnic foods and flavors for breakfast.

Empanadas also capitalize on the move toward filled grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches. Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based Johnsonville has a new Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit that is stuffed with scrambled eggs, Johnsonville sausage and mild cheddar cheese.

There’s also Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Convenience’s new Bosco Stuffed Breadsticks—a maple-cheddar topped breadstick filled with scrambled egg and cheese. The item can also be positioned as an all-day snack offering, with varieties such as Cheese & Turkey Ham. The all-day positioning meets the needs of the 39% of c-store consumers who choose breakfast sandwiches and wraps as snacks

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Alternative Proteins Market Evolves

June 19, 2017

Healthy lifestyle goals and food allergies are spurring innovation in plant-based proteins.

The plant-based protein alternatives market continues to evolve as customers look for healthier options. But even as the buzz around plant-based diets increases, it doesn’t mean customers are giving up meat.

In recent years there has been a lot of expansion and innovation surrounding plant-based dairy and meat alternatives in the U.S., even with dairy and animal-protein manufacturers finding ways to enter the space, but the market’s potential is still being determined. According to The NPD Group, a global information company, the market for plant-based alternatives is still evolving as consumers begin to leverage these items because of food allergies or they’re seeking what they believe to be more healthful options.

A logical conclusion to the plant-based alternatives buzz is that more people are living vegan (avoids all animal products), vegetarian (avoids meat products), or flexible vegetarian (mainly vegetarian with some exceptions) lifestyles; but, according to NPD Group’s ongoing tracking of eating attitudes and behaviors, very few follow the most restrictive vegan/ vegetarian diets. Only 1% of the population claims to be vegan or vegetarian and 8% say they are flexible vegetarians, or about 27 million actually claim to follow a plant-based diet such as vegan, vegetarian or flexible vegetarian.

The 27 million consumers claiming to follow a plant-based diet aren’t necessarily consuming plant-based dairy and meat alternatives since the number who actually consume plant-based dairy or meat alternatives is approximately 25 million. Annual eatings per capita of dairy alternatives have grown from 19 in 2013 to 21 in 2016 or 6.8 billion eatings and the consumption of plant-based meat alternatives has declined from five in 2013 to three or 972 million eatings in 2016.

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Millennials Are Driving Demand for Healthier Snacks

May 15, 2017

Study suggests that millennials are the driving force behind growth in better-for-you snacks.   

​AUSTIN, Texas – A new study by Amplify Snack Brands Inc. and the Center for Generational Kinetics suggests that millennials are the driving force behind the growth of the better-for-you snack category.

The research revealed that healthier snacks have become widely available across the country, break the income barrier, and are being held to the same standards of universal taste appeal as their conventional products. The result, says Amplify, is that healthy is the new normal.

The study’s white paper, available for download at amplifysnackbrands.com/research, cites research-based insights into better-for-you snacking trends and how to engage millennials by understanding their perceptions, motivations and behaviors when it comes to snacking. For example:

  • Millennials expect great taste: 78% describe better-for-you snacks as tasting the same or better than traditional packaged snacks.
  • Less is more: 64% of millennials, more than any other generation, believe that fewer ingredients mean a snack is healthier. In addition, 79% said that understanding all the ingredients increases their level of trust in a packaged snack.

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