There's a lot of talk about food these days. Rising prices. GMOs. Tainted everything. Eat more of this and less of that. Yesterday's health food is today's question mark. Organic? Local? Is your food straight from the farmer's hands? Or is it better travelled than you? Does it matter?
Over the past couple decades, dual income families have become the norm—consumers feel they have far less time to spend cooking from scratch. During that time, the percentage of Americans who enjoying cooking fell from 15% to 10%, which is maybe surprising given our love of cooking shows. This has led to bigger, weekly shops for food, filling up our now much bigger fridges and plates with more processed foods.
Canadian architect Donald Chong has said that “small fridges make great cities”, linking smaller European style refrigerators to daily walks or bike rides to local shops for fresh food. And that hyperlocal approach seems to be resonating with consumers in 2018, looking to spend less time shopping for food overall, but willing to shop more frequently—sometimes even daily—especially when it comes to in-season produce.
Also growing in popularity are CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes, allowing consumers to purchase a share of produce for an entire season of deliveries on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Given the drop in at-home cooking, the new “meal in a box” services which deliver everything you need to make specific meals for a couple or family, complete with recipes, are a curious trend. Clearly some consumers are willing to get back in the kitchen even if it’s just a commitment 2-3 times per week.
Consumers aren’t getting food deliveries from just traditional retailers. With in-house digital assistants from Google and Amazon, consumers will get tech help placing regular orders for out of pantry items, cleaning supplies or snacks that would have traditionally been added to weekly shops. As this becomes more common, it will force local grocers to become more experiential, offering prepared exotic meals, artisanal foods, wine bars and pizza ovens to in-person shoppers. In order to remain competitive, retailers will also be making major ecommerce investments benefitting time-strapped consumers with delivery services or click-and-collect concepts.
Food waste is a growing concern for consumers and governments alike and organizations like Food Maven in the US and Feed-it-Forward’s new Pay-What-You-Can grocery store in Toronto are tackling both food waste and food insecurity, a growing problem as food prices rise but wages remain flat for many.
Consumers are growing increasingly concerned about foods in non-recyclable packaging, leading to the rise in the zero waste movement, with fresh interest in bulk shopping, with a focus on bring-your-own-containers and farmer’s markets. Growing consumer distrust over “big food” and worries about sustainability will drive further changes to consumer behaviour and preferences. Food manufacturers and retailers that rise to meet these concerns will be more likely to win the share of wallet they need to thrive.