Retail Foodservice

Predications and Predictions on Trending Dining Habits

Following top food trends can boost retail foodservice success

You might say that trends are trending. Hot on the heels of food trend lists that were released in late 2017 and early January, additional new reports reveal emerging eating behaviors and attitudes as this year moves forward.

Reviewing some of these trends, one finds some common denominators, which can lead to higher numbers for a foodservice program at retail.

Picking up the pace. In its latest foodservice report, What to Expect in 2018, Netherlands-headquartered RaboResearch reports that quick-service restaurants continue to outperform other sectors in the U.S. and are likewise gaining strength in Europe. The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in Arlington, Va., echoes the ongoing clamor for quick solutions in its recently released report, Power of Foodservice at Retail 2018, which found that 52% of shoppers list speed as the first- or second-highest decision factor for a quick dinner out. “These shoppers have a high interest in grab-and-go and heat-and-eat options, the ability to order ahead, and a deli-dedicated checkout lane,” the report says.

If shoppers like fast and convenient solutions, they don’t want to compromise health or nutrition: In its 2018 What’s in Store report, the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) notes that Gen Zers (50 million and counting) are interested in healthier quick-service restaurant items. “Today’s shoppers seek out product attributes important to their lifestyles and beliefs, but also products that offer convenience when busy with various commitments,” says Education Coordinator Eric Richard. “Grocery fresh departments have outstanding opportunities to connect with these shoppers, as many of the products found there are exactly what shoppers are looking for.”

Digital touchpoints. A grocer’s prepared food section may be an island in the store—sometimes, literally, in island cases and displays—but that doesn’t mean there aren't other sides to the foodservice business. Interest in digital browsing, ordering and delivery is increasing: In its 2018 trend report, RaboResearch points to digital shopping and digital-based delivery services as big foodservice trends right now.

FMI’s report also underscores the growing influence of digital-based buying among today’s consumers. “Our analysis emphasizes how the digitally engaged consumer is rewriting the menu for grocery foodservice, with 63% of shoppers using technology at least some of the time to help them decide where and what to eat for dinner,” says Rick Stein, vice president of fresh foods.

In the report, FMI suggests that grocers reach shoppers who use their smartphones, tablets and other technologies to help them decide what’s for dinner. “Most stick to just researching dinner options, with online ordering and payment functionality being more important to technology-advanced users. Make sure shoppers find the grocery deli along with restaurant options," the report says.

Nation-state of flavors. Remember when flavors from, say, Mexico or Italy were considered trendy? Cuisines from many countries are now influencing dining trends in the U.S., including foods offered at hot food bars, grocerants and prepared food sections of grocery stores. Sodexo Quality of Life Services released a report in February predicting food trends in 2018, which include foods and flavors from Israel, Morocco and the Philippines. Kevin Cecilio, senior director of culinary innovations, says, “The food of these three countries ranges from the Spanish and Asian influences in Filipino cooking, to the bouquet of spices that make up the flavors of Moroccan dishes, to the fusion of native Israeli ingredients with the dishes brought to the country by immigrants fleeing Eastern Europe after World War II.”

IDDBA, in the meantime, highlights the current trend toward "advanced Japanese” with menu items such as udon noodles, yakitori skewers and savory okonomiyaki pancakes.

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