The Hartman Group’s 2014 Year in Review

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Dec 23, 2014

Today's list is from the Hartman Group (www.hartman-group.com), a market research firm specializing in consumer culture in America. It takes a look back at cultural changes in the food & beverage industry during 2014.

Whole Paycheck Takes a Bite Out of the Middle Market

News that Whole Foods Market’s share prices soared as investors rewarded the company for its performance and direction is not news to us. We’ve written extensively about why consumers resonate so strongly with the Whole Foods proposition in the first place: high-quality products and experiences. Adding value is icing on the cake.

GMO Labeling: Confusion at the Shelf

The battle over genetically modified food continues to rage, focused mostly on whether companies should label products that contain GMOs. Whole Foods created a sense of urgency about the topic when it decided it would ensure that all GMO products in its stores would be labeled by 2018 to enhance consumer choice. The key question is: how will enhanced transparency around GMOs in food/beverage change purchase behavior at the shelf?

Smucker’s Smart Move

Smucker’s often looks outside for product innovations and found one in its acquisition of Sahale Snacks. Why does this work? Because it is precisely what consumers want: high-quality food. The trick now is to be patient and adjust growth expectations for a new, food-forward market in which consumers are experimenting and exploring.

Snacking Now Half of All Eating Occasions: How Food Companies Can Keep Up

At first glance, modern American eating patterns appear to be all over the place. People decide in the morning to eat leftovers for dinner, then change their minds midday and look forward to takeout instead, after which they see a coupon for a new restaurant and stop there at the last minute. As haphazard as that behavior seems, the patterns are not random. Eating is tied viscerally to the changing rhythms of people's daily lives, including their perception that they are overbooked and their need to feel healthy and satisfied by food at the same time they take care of their families' disparate eating needs.

Who Needs “Natural” on Labels? Not Consumers

Although the term "natural" means something to consumers in everyday speech, they do not rely on it to mean much in marketing contexts. Perhaps the time has come, then, for food companies to reconsider using the term on labels and focus instead on new product innovation and more creative language.

Recipe for Growth in Packaged Foods

Legacy brands need to take a page from upmarket, entrepreneurial food businesses and start shaping their products to consumers' needs, which are radically different than they were when many of these brands were growing fast.

Living in a Wellness Culture
Over the past decade, The Hartman Group has witnessed a cultural shift from “health” to “quality of life” and from reactive health to proactive wellness.

How Young Brands Build Consumer Trust
The power of a brand is exaggerated by branding and advertising experts. We know from our consumer research that the persuasive role of brand and brand symbolism varies greatly over the life cycle of a food business, depending especially on how the broader food culture interacts with it.

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