Of the mega-trends identified by Mintel for the coming year, those related to demographic shifts are most likely to have a bearing on eating habits, according to principal trends analyst Richard Cope.
He told FoodNavigator.com that as people are working longer into retirement, there is a greater need for products geared towards vitality and health in a more senior workforce. “At the moment energy drinks, foods and snacks are marketed towards the youth market,” he said, “but they will become more about getting people through the day at an older age.”
In addition, women in the workforce are now better qualified, commanding higher salaries and working longer hours – which means men need to do more of the shopping. While retailers may presume they are pitching to women shopping for families, Cope questions whether there is a need for more masculine takes on health and value.
“Do men think differently about providing for their families?”
At the same time, men may be tempted to buy more products they are interested in. This has already happened in the cosmetics industry, with the emergence of a distinct ‘male cosmetics’ segment – and to some extent in the United States it has started to happen with food too, with a trend towards ‘macho-cheffing’, involving much meat and alcohol.
Obesity – cater or counter?
“You can’t argue against it. We are getting bigger as a species,” said Cope. This may not be new for 2011, but he observes that food firms are facing a decision as to whether they cater to it, or try to counter it with healthier alternatives.
“We might see some brands embrace the idea of indulgence and gluttony,” he said. Certainly people may not be thinking so much about health as they are about indulgence when they dine out, but if they do too far towards catering to it brands may do themselves damage. Cope cited the example of McDonalds, which has re-pitched restaurants to have a healthier appeal but they still revolve around essentially unhealthy burgers.
On the other hand there is more social pressure on people to eat healthily. Cope called obesity “the new tobacco” and said people are unhappy about their taxes being used to pay for gastric band surgery.
He suggested that is room for food brands to combine the cater and counter approaches – and transparency about it will breed more consumer trust.
Cope said that tinned and frozen foods are likely to benefit from consumers’ bunker mentality and the search for stability in a tumultuous world. Certainly there is greater awareness that freezing foods early locks in their nutritious benefits. “There is room for experimentation in high end frozen food,” he said.
While the world is becoming more urbanised, there is also a growing interest in ‘grow you own’, with long waiting lists for allotments in many place and seed sales “through the roof”. While this mainly translates into opportunities for garden centres, at the supermarket level this may mean catering to small gestures towards self-sufficiency, such as stocking herbs for window boxes.
But there is also a lot of room for food companies to push the message ‘we grow our own’ – and out of town shopping centres may also have the space for their own production.