Suzy Badaracco Reveals Consumer Trends for 2012

An analysis of 143 Top 10 trend reports offers clues to where consumers are heading.

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All-day breakfast, eating together as a family, slow fast food, miniaturization in food and drinks, chefs to airports, drug and convenience stores as food providers are also notable, and she points out one fun prediction, "Miami will be the new Las Vegas."

This paints a more complex landscape to navigate but at the same time means more freedom for the industry to focus in areas of interest or expertise. "In a recession, companies are in a tight focus. Everyone is clamped down, they don't want to experiment, and are scared, so this is a better place to be," she says emphatically.

Consumers cautiously moving toward recovery still demand authenticity, so this is not the time to "Americanize" global foods. Bring in foods from abroad in their truest form and represent them accurately on the plate.

"While consumers are letting go of their blanket of fear created by the economic crisis and war overseas, be aware they still have a few fingers touching the blanket or at least have it in their line of sight," she says. "This is not the year to plunge ahead with molecular gastronomy or to create foods without reference to anything in their ken."

Some predictions are consumer-focused and some are focused on research; thus a duality or mix of both. Macro predictions in Health include: prevention, control, simplify and trust. Badaracco notes the two conditions that stood out were cognitive function and obesity.

Under Prevention, holdovers are digestive health, eye health, senior health and a rise in flexitarianism (a more flexible form of vegetarianism). And a host of single foods were called out this year – grains, dairy, omega-3 and fiber.

What's missing? "None of the prognosticators mentioned joint and bone health, eye health, cardiovascular disease, weight gain, muscle health or mood (sleep, stress, anxiety, depression), even though health research is very focused on mood," she says.

Control (what consumers are trying to control) included free-from labels, farmer's markets and allergy awareness. Family meals is a new focus. "Another interesting thing in this category is apps, or online information," she points out. "Those include seasonal/local, salt, fat and sugar, and smaller portions. Not mentioned by prognosticators was controlling calories, menu labeling, kids nutrition, acrylamide and bisphenol A."

Under Simplify, unprocessed and natural were notable. "We added convenience, emphasizing the benefit of simplifying labels, and whole foods," she says. "Instead of apple juice, you eat the whole apple; instead of refined grains, you eat whole grains."

Farmers markets show up again in Trust, as does food safety. "What wasn't mentioned was free-from, organic and natural," she says, adding,

"Consumers don't trust organic, natural or sustainable claims, although sustainability is key for them. Consumers mistakenly pick companies they think are green, but aren't, and don't choose companies with very good green records. Trust is actually mistrust; it's a red flag, so companies need to be aware of that and gain their trust."

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