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Retail Foodservice

What Diversity Means Today – And Why It is Important in Product Mix and Merchandising

There was a time, not so long ago, when manufacturers and merchandisers were focused on diversity, identifying and reaching out to defined and rather compartmentalized demographic groups.

As the nation’s population evolves, however, so too does the notion of diversity: it’s more about multiculturalism and ethnic influence across the broader market.

The recently-released What’s in Store 2018 report from the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA), Madison, Wis., underscores the importance of the new population dynamic and what it means for food retailers and foodservice operators. “Multiculturalism is growing in the U.S. and it’s changing the way food retailers and manufacturers look at consumer buying behaviors,” remarks Eric Richard, education coordinator for IDDBA.

Multiculturalism connotes many things, but an important facet is the composition of the marketplace. As the new What’s in Store 2018 report points out, almost half (45%) of Millennials identify as multicultural or ethnic, with food purchasing decisions “no longer based on their lineage or familial customs.” Right behind Millennials are the Generation Z consumers, half (50%) of whom identify as multicultural or ethnic. By 2060, according to the report, one in two Americans will be multicultural.

Accordingly, a larger part of the overall consumer base is seeking a variety of flavors in their foods. One in four Americans say that multicultural flavors are important, according to the IDDBA report.

The impact on the marketplace is already being felt, given that Millennials and Gen Z consumers have demonstrated a propensity for adventurous eating and for considering themselves “foodies," if not necessarily cooks.  “The result is a blurring of lines separating ethnic consumer demographics. Retailers in tune with consumer shopping patterns can provide innovative solutions on the changing palates of today’s shoppers,” notes Richard. 

Such innovative solutions include a continued focus on multicultural ingredients and dining experiences with a multicultural flair. Not surprisingly, IDDBA’s report includes a prediction of ingredients to watch, many of which reflect the multicultural identification among American consumers. Examples of trending ingredients include dukkah, agrodoice, cajeta, avocado oil, galangal, umeboshi, chermoula, zhug, tobiko, gose, karashi mustard, teff and sambal.

If you have to look those up and wonder if they really will trickle down to everyday eating, remember, al pastor and shawarma weren’t exactly top of mind for most American consumers a decade ago.

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