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Changing Eating Habits and Its Impact on the Food Industry

Sangita RaySangita Ray

Posted on Monday, September 12th, 2011

Eating HabitsToday we are on a quest for groceries that are convenient, healthy, and that fit within our budgets. To make sure products are added to these shoppers’ baskets, manufacturers and retailers need to pay attention to several major shifts in consumer eating habits.

Home Cooking
Today, cooking meals at home is gaining popularity, approaching a 20 year high. Eat- in and packing food from home is back. Approximately, 72% of meals are now prepared in the home, reviving  once stagnant food segments like basic ingredients, home baking, prepared mix, heat and eat, and frozen ingredients.  Shoppers are opting to spend more time with family, and in fact, many people now prefer entertaining family and friends at home instead of going out. As a result, sales of gourmet snacks and specialty foods have seen a significant spike.

Co-Branded Products
Even though consumers are eating at home, they still like to indulge in restaurant-style foods at home. To cater to that need, products that are co-branded with restaurants have been gracing more supermarket shelves.

Private Label Preference
Many consumers are still feeling the effects of the financial crisis and as a result, they have tightened their belts when it comes to grocery spending. 65 percent of consumers report that they care more about price than they do about brand, causing a strong shift towards private label brands, which these price conscious consumers often end up preferring.

Ingredients Matter
Healthy eating has become a priority and food shoppers have become increasingly aware of the nutrients in the food they eat. Though consumers continue to find fortified foods appealing, more and more people are gravitating towards products that are naturally high in vitamins, minerals, and protein. Many people are making focused efforts to stay away from foods high in sodium, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and chemical preservatives and are limiting the processed foods they eat. “Natural” and “organic” have become buzz words that have a lot of pull with these consumers who are trying to eat healthier – with whole grains continuing to be the most sought after health claim to add to a product’s packaging.

Though high inflation and unemployment paint a dark economic picture, the CPG industry may be able to escape some of the pitfalls – especially if marketers and retailers stay on top of these evolving trends and adopt new strategies to meet the consumers’ changing needs.


8 Responses for "Changing Eating Habits and Its Impact on the Food Industry"

  1. Dawn Suderman September 12th, 2011 at 5:08 PM

    This is right on the mark. Making food at home fulfills one of a human’s most basic sources of happiness–to make something. Shopping for something ready-made is definitely a time-saving measure, but the opportunity to be creative is a learning process that is deeply gratifying. In addition, having control over what types of ingredients used, the level of spices, recipe variations, etc. fosters a sense of accomplishment not found by simply buying the finished product.

    For example, I make my own homemade yogurt–both regular and Greek varieties–for a fraction of what it costs to buy yogurt. Depending on what I can find at the time, I might use organic or even raw milk. I can add fresh berries I picked or grew myself, specialty honey, shredded wheat, granola, and other ingredients to my own liking. The process is amazingly simple, and I like enjoying the results. If I’m making Greek yogurt, I can use the leftover whey in mashed potatoes, banana bread, or simply as an ingredient in a smoothie.

    In today’s economy, the ability to do for one’s self, and save money while doing so, offers a bright spot in an otherwise potentially bleak monetary landscape.

  2. Sue Miller September 12th, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    A perfect example of how healthy eating and home cooking go hand in hand are the food co-ops that are popping up in grocery stores.

    There is a co-op group at our local grocery store where once a month a person can come home with 10 meals that are prepared in the store using their supplied healthy and fresh ingredients. You can go with 10 friends and come home with 10 different meals!

  3. Ritu Mahindru September 12th, 2011 at 10:40 PM

    Great post! The information on home-cooking and health claims on labels reaffirms what’s happening in the market. Thank you for your concise and well thought out write-up.

  4. Donna Sutton September 13th, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    The “budget” is back due to the economy and making sure you get the ‘best’ food for your dollar is a challenge to say the least. You can try using coupons and there are always store deals however they aren’t always on the items you need or would choose for your family or your budget, or perhaps they aren’t in time for your planned shopping trip. Don’t get me wrong – coupons and deals help – and coupon use is up – my family uses them as often as possible!

    What might be considered “healthy” for one person or family may not be for another – with all the diverse cultures in this country and the special diets (diabetics, gluten-free on the rise, cholesterol, high fiber, etc.) it can be difficult for retailers and manufacturers to always have things the right things on deal at the right time for the right people.

    As well, what might be a “deal” or a good price for one budget is not going to be affordable for another. Things we consider as “healthy”, such as “organics”, “natural”, and those things that are part of a specialty diet (sugar-free, gluten-free, etc.) are actually higher priced than most other items and are not necessarily affordable for many in today’s economy. What is unfortunate is that many of the processed foods of today that may not be as healthy, are the more affordable items typically, and those are also more “convenient” foods that people on a tight budget can afford from a monetary and time budgeting standpoint.

    With both parents working and money tight, the quickest thing to make is often the processed, packaged, quick/pre-made meal. I saw this growing up, and I see it with my adult children struggling to feed their kids and make ends meet.

    While food costs/prices are high, eating out is certainly down for my family and cooking at home is always the way to go. I just wish they could eat a bit healthier and less of the processed stuff.

  5. Karyn Taylor September 20th, 2011 at 5:44 PM

    While I agree with Home Cooking and Healthy Eating being a priority, I don’t know that it’s truly something people are just becoming aware of. As social and economic situations change “healthy eating” finds itself re-invented to fit that situation. ‘Healthy’ was part of the local trends for some time, i.e., farmers markets, eat organic, shop local, etc.

    Just as the CPG industries re-invent themselves and their products so to does the healthy eating trend. A true test and good start to ending this as a trend, to me at least, would be to see changes in eating at school-level. Teach our kids to eat healthy before it’s too late and they develop issues as teens and adults. Even while I was unemployed I did not have a strict budget for shopping. I would rather spend a little extra on fresh fruit and produce, meats and fish than a lot more at the Doctor later.

    I think the CPG industry still has a long way to go with this and is still more of a trend-follower than a trend-setter.

  6. Sangita Ray September 22nd, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    Can’t agree more with you Karyn !! Healthy eating trends and so called healthy products introduced by the marketers seem to be more like in an egg-chicken situation – not sure which one follows the other. Media also plays a critical role in developing the perception of what is healthy.

    It’s shocking how expensive it is to get food that is “truly healthy” these days. To get healthy milk you have to drink organic milk because regular milk is loaded with antibiotics/hormones and before you know it you are paying twice/ three time -likewise with chicken, organic fruits/ veggies.

  7. Dawn Suderman September 27th, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    I beg to differ–if people would grow and cook more of their own food, eating healthy is not nearly as expensive as some people would think.

  8. Sangita Ray September 28th, 2011 at 4:56 PM

    Totally agree with you, Dawn, that cooking at home not only makes healthy eating very easy but also very cost effective. BTW, from your the first comment I have to say – your culinary skills sound extremely impressive !!

    Growing food at home unfortunately is not that easy to venture despite its cost and health benefits. For many of us who live in big cities – forget the idea of having a home garden, very often having a balcony can be a luxury. And thus, leaving us with hardly any option but to embrace expensive ways to procure so called healthy (i.e. natural/ organic) produce from market.