Food trend experts get out their crystal balls

Harry Balzer, NPD Group

Balzer

Your car’s power window might be the fastest growing food-related appliance in America, according to Harry Balzer, vice president, The NPD Group. “We never even get out of the car for 24 percent of our meals,” he told attendees at a trends seminar during the recent Institute of Food Technologists’ Annual Meeting and Food Expo.

According to NPD’s latest trend research, some 59 percent of women work. As a result, they use restaurants as an appliance and take meals home. And after all the media focus on health and wellness, the most popular item in restaurants is fried chicken.

Four important things to remember, said Balzer, are:

  • Taste –
  • it takes generations to change;

  • New products –
  • Americans love to try new products but don’t mistake this for a trend (such as healthier foods);

  • Convenience –
  • processors should always work to make consumers’ lives easier;

  • Cost –
  • don’t let costs rise more than what people can afford.

Speaking of restaurants, “premium choices are no longer the exclusive realm of fine dining,” said Amanda Archibald, analyst, Mintel Menu Insights. Fast food, fast-casual and casual dining restaurants now all use upscale ingredients and define them on menus with monikers such as artisan, local, seasonal and authentic, she said.

But it’s not all about feeding your kids fried chicken. “Americans are concerned about children’s health, with rising rates of obesity and growing concern that babies born now will develop diabetes in the future,” added Maryellen Molyneaux, president of the Natural Marketing Institute. That will open up a huge market for products aimed at kids’ health.

As for opportunities in the near term, each had a different idea. Balzer said the key is convenient products at retail. Archibald said diners will place increased value on flavors, taste and texture in restaurant meals rather than on portion size. Molyneaux predicted demand for healthy frozen entrees, healthy gourmet and healthy convenience.

“About a hundred years ago, most people could kill a chicken,” said Balzer. “Can anyone do that today without running over it with the car? In another 100 years, people will ask if you knew how to cook, and kids will want to know what that stove was used for.”

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