As a frequent traveler, both professionally and personally, one component of my food intake remains stable to ensure my eating doesn’t go entirely rogue. Breakfast. Coffee and a banana with a handful of nuts. As much as I crave a little consistency, recently I’ve learned that I’m missing out on a daypart that is getting increasingly more interesting – both worldly and creative.
It isn’t just avocado toast on the rise – though it’s the #1 fastest-growing breakfast item at both limited-service and full-service restaurants according to Datassential.1 This past weekend in Oregon, I had it twice, but not “just any avo toast”. Both incorporated ingredients like radish, poached eggs and….heat. “Mama Lil’s Peppers” and “Chili Flakes”. A perfect example of how operators are responding to the fact that 45% of consumers state that a bold or spicy flavor is an important attribute to consider when ordering a breakfast item!1
Foodscape3, led by Datassential earlier this fall, featured some of the wildest foods at every meal. Breakfast was no exception. From Korean milk bread (yes it’s as good as it sounds), to mini conchas from the Mexican Panaderia, the pastry options did not disappoint. More than a third of consumers say they’re interested in trying a global pastry, and there aren’t too many restaurants that offer them that opportunity – just 10% today.1
It’s exciting to have more opportunities to experience foods and flavors from around the world. It’s certainly offering restaurants and operators a chance to develop more unique dishes, both at the expected breakfast hour and throughout the day. More than half of all operators offer a brunch menu that differs from their breakfast offerings and about a quarter of all are seeing an increase in brunch sales this past year. I know I’m intrigued by what I’ll see as a consumer – even if it means I have to find alternative ways to maintain some meal consistency on the road. Or, incorporate a post-breakfast stroll!
1 Datassential Foodscape3. Chicago, IL. September 2019.
The sober-curious movement is a natural outflow of plant-based eating and lifestyle diets. Consumers are more focused on what is in their food, where it came from and how it benefits their body. The sober-curious movement is no different. As discussed back in July, the low ABV and sober trend has taken off this year, with more beverage companies creating no to low alcoholic beverages and more consumers are challenging themselves to take a break from the booze.
According to Nielson, Millennials are driving the mindful
drinking movement, with 66% saying they’re making efforts this year to reduce
their alcohol consumption1. For those 21 and older, the top two
reasons they stated for abstaining from alcohol were health (50%) and weight
loss (28%). In January 2019, one-fifth of Americans said they participated in
Dry January and 83% of Americans who participated this year say they will
participate again in 2020.
More recently we have begun to see companies pop up like Wild Basin Boozy Sparkling Water, who’s tagline “Keep running wild”, which speaks to active lifestyle consumers who value the outdoors, socializing with friends and healthier living. We are also seeing non-alcoholic spirits popping up like Seedlip, who wants to help the dilemma of ‘what to drink when you’re not drinking’.
Bar and restaurant experience without the buzz
Bars and restaurants are noticing the trend as well. The Sans Bar in Austin, TX is the first sober bar in the city. The owner of the bar wanted to create a safe and inviting atmosphere for people who want to have a good time without alcohol. They offer live music, upscale environment, and sober drinks that you can’t find anywhere else. Even in our hometown of Minneapolis, MN the restaurant The Lynhall has created a Sober Sunday Supper Series where they partner with local restaurants, prepare a four-course family style dinner paired with non-alcoholic beverages. Colorado is the latest state to take part in this trend with Bar Zero, a nonprofit bar supporting people who are choosing not to drink.
As consumers experiment with making a shift away from the prominence of alcohol, there will likely be even more who challenge themselves with #DryJanaury to give their body and mind a break. How operators start and continue to lean into this “movement” with food, drink and social experiences may offer new ways to win over this emerging group.
1 Nielsen, Many Americans Are Looking for a Bar
Experience Without the Buzz, 2019
Consumers are talking more and more about waste reduction these days, looking even more closely at product and food labels, technology & devices, and nearly anything that is part of our daily lives and routines. Because of this, brands are having to act fast and join the movement if they want to stay relevant in the minds of consumers—and in a way that’s also authentic to their own brand and mission. Otherwise, consumers will likely see right through their efforts. Food producers and manufacturers are especially under pressure to find ways to reduce both plastic packaging and food waste.The USDA estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the country’s food supply ends up in landfills.And the amount of packaging waste in the United States surged 185% from 1960 to 2015, from 27 million tons to nearly 78 million tons.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that more and more brands are integrating reduce, reuse, recycle principles into their business models, products, packaging and beyond—resulting in crafty solutions that squeeze out the most value from materials and ingredients. All the while not compromising on design or overall product experience. Quite the opposite, actually—refining a product’s attributes can provide an ideal opportunity to also enhance its presentation.
While waste-conscious items are becoming increasingly available to consumers on shelves of common shopping destinations like Target and Whole Foods (think boxed water or bar shampoo), one independent brick and mortar is taking the concept one step further. Meet Tare Market. Situated right in our very own backyard of Minneapolis, Tare is Minnesota’s first zero-waste shop—a concept that’s been popular and successful outside of the US for years, and just starting to see some traction here. You won’t find any packaging here as this refill shop has one mission—to provide eco-friendly products and educational resources that will help you live a more sustainable, zero-waste lifestyle. In addition to shopping for household items, makeup, food and supplements, Tare offers educational classes and resources — from Indoor Worm Composting to Cloth Diapering — to help shoppers adopt their mission outside of its store walls.
In a similar spirit of bringing brands together under one roof, only on a larger scale, is a 2019 collaboration called Loop. Loop is a partnership between grocery giant Kroger, Walgreens, UPS and TerraCycle, a waste management firm. It brings consumers a more innovative, waste free grocery experience. Think Haagen-Dazs ice cream in metal containers and Nature’s Path granola in glass jars. Most items cost roughly the same as they would in a store. They come in less traditional packaging—and all purchases flow through their online site. True to its name, Loop sanitizes and ships reusable containers back to the brands after use and the cycle starts over again. Now that’s what we call a waste win!
Other big brands are embracing waste reduction in their own ways. In October of 2018, Dunkin’ Donuts released its experiential tiny house that runs completely on Dunkin’ coffee grounds, via a partnership with Airbnb. In contrast to physical products for purchase, Dunkin’ brought “waste-conscious” to life through a memorable and engaging social media rich experience. Fun fact: Every 170 pounds of spent coffee grounds yields about one gallon of fuel and is used in a standard biofuel generator to power the tiny house.
According to New Hope Network’s 2019 Informa Study, Waste Reduction is ranked as the #1 leading trend across all consumer segments.
The global cost of food waste is estimated to be nearly $1 trillion a year, with up to 25% of residential waste arising from inadequate packaging.
It’s clear waste reduction-minded produce and products are no longer something you see solely at your local co-op or independently-run stores and niche websites. Big players, like those involved in Loop, are on the rise, making it clear any brand or business, big or small, is eligible to join the conversation. Whether it’s a physical product tweak or experience like the tiny house, tapping into the fact that 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, is key to success.
Meal kits continue to be scrutinized – are they here to stay or not? In recent years, they have influenced consumer’s shopping habits and their time spent meal prepping. Meal kits provide the perfect amount of each ingredient, minimize food waste and allow consumers to enhance their culinary skills through new recipes and different cuisine types. Yet, the debate continues as to whether this is a viable play as brands and ideas come and go.
What’s been happening?
The meal kit market has quickly evolved from a nearly exclusive online, subscription-based home delivery service to include a wide range of options at retail. A number of brands have partnered with brick-and-mortar stores to give consumers pre-packaged options in a whole new way. Consumers are interested in trying new ways to purchase meal kits, with over a quarter of recent users purchasing both in-store and online1. According to The NPD Group, nearly 93 million consumers have never tried a meal kit service, but are interested in trying one, which points to a market opportunity.
Food Marketing Institute identifies the typical meal kit consumer as high-income households, urban shoppers, Millennials, and households with children2. These meal kit shoppers are convenience-seekers, with 45% also frequently buying foodservice items and 48% relying heavily on semi- and fully-prepared items.
The newest addition: school lunches
As children head back to school, working parents are looking for convenience when it comes to preparing school lunches and weeknight dinners. Two companies, Yumble and Nurture Life, are differentiating themselves from traditional meal kit services with healthy, ready-to-eat options geared towards kids. Served as-is or with minimal (2 minutes!) heat time, Yumble offers plant-based, organic, and hidden veggie offerings all specifically designed for kids. Plus, their meal kits include the added bonus of fun activities in the box to add more ways for the whole family to connect around mealtime. Nuture Life features foods for babies, toddlers and children up to age 18. We are also starting to see other companies deliver individually-sealed lunch trays directly to the school for a lower price point.
With time and cost as the main barriers for parents who want to serve healthy family meals, kid-friendly meal kit companies have an opportunity to solve one of parents’ biggest pain points: high-quality meals with limited amount of time. These companies have not yet moved to the brick and mortar model, which may be an opportunity for them to gain new customers who are less likely to give it a try due to subscription requirements or costs.
The main drawback facing meal kit providers is the high cost of customer acquisition, and the difficulty retaining those customers who can quickly move to a different meal kit company or jump on the next food fad. So, will meal kits go away or are they here for the long run? I believe meal kits provide a multitude of benefits including convenience and minimized food waste. I don’t believe meal kits will last forever due to the increasing challenge of retaining customers in the current environment, with factors like third-party delivery and and food on-the-go.
They’ve been around for years and there’s no end in sight. Serving as an integral part of the overall mobile food movement, food trucks (mobile vehicles where food and beverage is cooked and sold), are more alive than ever before. With 62% of consumers seeking out new/unique dining experiences and nearly 80% of people willing to try a new food or beverage once—it may be a better time than ever if you’re a business or chef looking to offer an experimental, labor light, social media rich experience to grow your brand. And gone are the days when the end game for a food truck was to land a brick and mortar presence on the side of a busy, hungry street. While still a worthy pursuit, today’s food trucks are leaning into growing consumer appetites for new dining experiences by serving up innovative ways to keep their trucks more relevant than ever. Moving beyond the role of feeding crowds of fair-goers and office workers—we highlight 3 food trucks that embrace all a food truck can be in 2019. But first, let’s dive into the data behind where the industry is headed.
Food trucks reached an estimated $2.7 billion in revenue in 2017, a 24-percent increase from 2014. Source: According to a December 2017 report produced by Food Truck Nation under the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Food truck industry revenues have grown 7.3 percent at an annualized rate from 2012 to 2017. Source: IBISWorld
Food Truck Showcase
Farmers and Foragers Bringing more awareness to your plate.
Once upon a time, a food truck was known as a one-stop indulgent spot, where you may have thought little about where the food came from. You just wanted it to taste really good and be on your way, right? (It’s OK if that’s still the case, too). Founded in 2014, Burlington, Vt.-based Farmers and Foragers brought a new perspective to the table, literally. Partnering with local farms to source the ingredients for a diverse menu of American comfort food—form Goi Ga, a Vietnamese Chicken Salad to Duck Wontons and Crispy Squash Blossoms. Some of the menu even features foraged produce from Vermont’s very own backyard. “When you go to a food truck rally, everything tastes amazing, but you don’t know where the food comes from,” he said. “I think we brought some level of consciousness to that.” This truck proves the care and quality you may typically expect only in a restaurant can be embraced by food on the move as well.
Hot Indian Building a better, brighter brand.
Founded in 2013, this brightly hued, highly Instagrammable food truck (and now in multiple brick and mortar locations across the Twin Cities including a residence at Midtown Global Market), Hot Indian plays a role in changing the dining experience by providing memorable branding moments at every touch point — enticing consumers to enjoy more than just delicious food like their famous Indurrito: An Indian burrito made with house made roti, a round Indian flatbread. From showing consumers how to give a proper high five to big, bold graphics, Hot Indian has proven its sustainability in the mobile food space by embracing a truly Instagrammable, shareable experience.
Finnegan’s Reverse Food Truck No food served here.
It may look like an ordinary food truck, but there’s no food served here. The (501(c)3) Minnesota-based brewery Finnegan’s Brewery has been doing good by its community since day one, with 100% of its profits going directly back to serving areas in need. So in true local-oriented fashion, their Reverse Food Truck (RFT) follows suit. Launched with one simple mission—We Don’t Make Food. We Take Food—The donation-based menu positions it as an innovative twist on the classic truck that’s in the business of cooking and serving up food. Through a partnership with The Food Group’s Harvest for the Hungry program, the RFT allows events to activate this giving back program where food is accepted and loaded into the truck to be donated to food shelves in the community. Their website even offers a contact to help others start their own RFT or volunteer with this one. A beautiful blend of entrepreneurship and philanthropy, this mission-based truck stands for a lot more than driving sales.
While there is no single roadmap for mobile food success, it’s clear there is a nearly endless runway for what a food truck can be—and stand for—today. When rooted in a solid business plan and a lens of sustainable thinking — chances of launch, engagement and a shot at longevity are favorable. Regardless of how a truck comes to be, it always starts with a focused business strategy and clear objectives – in order to create a solution that makes sense for your business and the needs of consumers or in many of these cases, an entire entity or community. Through it all, one cannot underestimate the role of a strong brand at every touch point – from your logo, look and feel, voice and tone, website and social efforts, community outreach and beyond. Working with partners that share and foster a holistic view of your brand experience — that is always key to success.
One of the latest trends in the bar scene may influence your next summer cocktail or craft beer selection – whether on a patio or in your own backyard. The “Low ABV” category is growing on all fronts, from bartenders experimenting with new recipes, to producers creating near-beers and faux spirits that provide flavor and fun.
You might be wondering… “but why? isn’t that missing the point?” As Millennials and Boomers are trying to stay fit, a recent study by International Wines and Spirits Record found that “52% of US adults who drink alcohol are either trying now or have tried before to reduce their alcohol intake”. This is right in line with the emergence of “Dry January” – the 31-day alcohol-free challenge that has become a tradition for many following the holidays. Indicative of an overall search for moderation with alcohol, restaurants and retail brands have taken note.
In NYC, the bar scene is rising to the challenge with trendy sober bars, mocktail menus and booze-free pop-up parties. These spaces are set up to look and feel like any other hip bar in the area, offering patrons an “alternative” night out. Most claim not to be a strictly sober space but rather one that promotes being social: talks, meet-ups, music, workshops, and my personal favorite: Juicebox Heroes, a karaoke lounge split into sober and non-sober sections. I have to imagine the experience is rather different from one side to the other!
On a broader scale, bars are putting more effort into their Low ABV program, and many times calling it out as a specific section on the menu. Generally defined as containing less than 1 ounce of high proof spirit, they are often only slightly less expensive as they tout similar high quality and unique ingredients as their alcoholic counterparts.
SO, WHAT NEXT?
Consumers will continue to look for what benefits their beverage choices can provide for them, by way of both wellness and experience. With the low- and no-alcohol beverage category projected to grow roughly 32% by 2022, it’s likely that creativity will continue to be key in shaping this trend – with the addition of items like “CBD-infused lattes” and “mushroom-elixirs”, the bar scene and how we consume mood-altering beverages is going to look very different even a few years from now.
“Low- And No-Alcohol Beverages Are a Growing Trend Worldwide.” Forbes. Pellechia, Thomas. February 20, 2019. “Sober-ish Summer?” Vanity Fair. Bryant, Kenzie. May 24, 2019.
This month we continue with the JTM Scale Series – a monthly post dedicated to sharing some of what we’re seeing in the local food and beverage start-up scene. Last time, we covered the beginning of this season of the MN Cup. While we anxiously await the second round of applications, we take a look at how “thinking small” is put into action to get closer to the consumer.
Innovation is the primary driver for many of the accelerators, incubators and venture arms that have been created in recent years. Now that these programs have been established, it’s been especially interesting in the past few months to see how they are being brought to life to bring real learnings and change.
Voice of Customer. If you’re familiar with Kickstarter, it’s likely you associate it with start-up brands or perhaps mission-based projects or causes. It is currently being utilized by Mondelez as a tool for testing different methodologies as they refine new product launch plans. In a recent campaign, Kickstarter backers are required to select which product they would prefer to receive in exchange for a pledge, which provides Mondelez with real-time feedback and a less traditional research method. Ultimately, the goal being to launch products on a timeline more reflective of a start-up.
Real-Life Food Labs. Food brand themed restaurants are nothing new – and have often been leveraged as a real-life lab for testing new innovative products and partnerships. A unique take on this concept is Edwards Dessert Kitchen, a beautifully designed space in the North Loop of Minneapolis with sophisticated dessert items and a craft cocktail menu curated by Tattersall Distillery. The concept is backed by Schwan’s (Edwards is the name of the frozen pies division), a collaboration between its corporate entity and a very talented pastry chef. With an intentional lack of corporate branding, it’s an opportunity to innovate, create and learn.
As incubators and venture arms become more prolific, the creativity in approach and execution are what will truly create a competitive advantage. The impact of these efforts on speed-to-market and innovation will take time to measure – but it’s exciting to see how “thinking small” is taking on its own meaning within organizations.
“With Dirt Kitchen & CaPao, Mondelez Tests New Launch Strategies.” Nosh. Ortenberg, Carol. July 1, 2019.
I distinctly remember excitedly sending a few messages back home from Lisbon in 2015 about a food market that was unlike anything I had seen. This is well before my official “days in the industry”. After wandering the city, I stumbled upon “Time Out Market Lisboa” – a food hall with more than 40 spaces that covered just about every category of local and global cuisine I could imagine. Today (and then, in many cities around the world), it’s a pretty well-known concept. From my personal initial “awe”, I can understand why. But what’s behind this concept that’s growing at a crazy fast speed?
What is it?
Food halls are a gathering of independent, chef-inspired pop-up restaurants that are often housed in a repurposed urban, post-industrial setting. How’s that for an image? If you have been to one, or a few, you know that this doesn’t really capture the experience at all. Much of what makes a food hall interesting, in my opinion, is the volume of options and the ambience in which you get to make your selection(s).
Why It’s Happening
There are a number of underlying factors that are driving the rapid expansion of Food Halls globally. From 2010 to 2017, the number increased around 700% and by the end of this year, it’s anticipated the number will double from that. The concept itself is appealing to critical stakeholders: diners, developers and chefs.
Much like trendy food trucks or street food vendors, food halls allow diners to access numerous independent restaurants all in one place, and at a full range of price points. In addition, the ambience works well for solo diners, large groups, or families. Developers are on board in a big way as this concept allows them to repurpose abandoned spaces – plus, they typically draw a crowd and are popular with Gen Z and Millennials. Last, but certainly not least, food halls allow chefs to open an independent concept with some critical built-in benefits: foot traffic (if done right) and lower operating costs.
In our own backyard and across the country, what’s next is more food halls with varying twists! In Minneapolis alone, there are a number of projects underway and many of the “originals” are getting more attention from the buzz alone. The Midtown Global Market has been around since 2006 and offers cuisine from all around the world. Now, there are at least two significant developments underway downtown that will house food halls in our own backyard. In Manhattan, Mercado Little Spain will open as a Spanish-themed food hall with support from renowned chefs and restaurateurs. This rapid growth certainly raises the question around saturation. While food and retail are changing rapidly, the verdict is out as to the longevity of this concept and its ability to meet the ever-changing consumer who demands novelty at every turn.
“The Origins of the Food Hall and Its Booming Popularity.” Hautzinger, Daniel. February 15, 2019.  “What if Food was the New Rock’N’Roll and Food Halls were the New Stages?” Brennan, James. January 3, 2019.
We are entering the season of conferences and tradeshows, with a number of industry events right around the corner. Recently, we attended IFMA’s Chain Operator’s Exchange in New Orleans where we walked away with a few interesting nuggets that span beyond the content that was shared in the presentations and roundtables.
If there were a word cloud built that captured the dialogue and content of all the events I’ve attended in the last year, “complexity” would be one of the largest. Complexity in reference to the quickly changing landscape, food safety, labor issues, the consumer journey, access challenges, supply chain transparency; the list goes on. In my opinion, the opportunity lies in the communication and a continued appetite to understand and evolve. One of the ways JT Mega is addressing the challenge is by staying — and ramping up — our involvement in the industry; but just as importantly, sharing the experiences among our own team. While it can be difficult to carve out time when schedules are only getting tighter, the post-JTM15 (our agency share-outs that last 15 minutes) conversations are a reminder of how much is happening right “within” our four walls that can support better navigating complexity.
If you’re interested in a JTM share-out with your team, let us know! We have a number of events coming up that may be of interest.
In addition to a complex landscape, it’s common understanding that consumers have more options and are becoming more selective when it comes to food choices. This increases the importance of measuring, understanding, and influencing guest loyalty for the sake of repeat purchase and growth. Datassential provided insights on some recent findings around what drives loyalty with restaurants.1 Relatively few chains achieved a net promoter score (NPS) of greater than 59%, but the bigger learning was in uncovering which qualities had the greatest correlation with true loyalty. It isn’t affordability or new LTOs – rather, attributes more ingrained in the culture of a restaurant. If you really want to impact loyalty, Unique Experience, Craveable Items, and Great Staff are the drivers. 1 These aren’t quick triggers by any means, but are in line with what we are seeing in the industry as a whole — brands have to offer more than the product; embodying a culture and experience that align with consumers personally matters more.
Over my short 2+ years in this industry, I have been continually reminded and pleasantly surprised by the “in-it-together” mentality that is inherent in the food and beverage world. It seems that the conscious focus on collaboration — how to do things better, together — is openly a priority. Continuing to raise the bar in this industry is a collective goal and it makes it an exciting time to be part of it.
This “season” of events is off to a solid start and it will be interesting to see what emerges in both themes and trends for 2019. We look forward to sharing what stands out to us and would love to hear what you think is a little different about this year. (Or…to hear what you’d like to hear more about…).
1 “Keys to Brand Affinity.” Datassential. IFMA COEX. February 2019.
Today’s consumers are pulled in
many directions and often need that little
something to get them through the day. There’s a reason Starbucks offers happy
hour prices on their most indulgent drinks, and why Panera offers a baked good
to add to your lunch for 99¢. Whether we recognize it or not, many of us have
grown used to the idea of small (often unplanned) indulgences on a daily basis.
What are we talking about?
“Small indulgences: Stressed-out consumers want to indulge in affordable luxuries and seek ways to reward themselves” —Faith Popcorn, BrainReserve
This idea of small indulgences is by no means new. Faith Popcorn, of strategic marketing consultancy BrainReserve, identified “small indulgences” as an emerging megatrend back in 1991, and it’s hung around and evolved ever since. As people focus on health and wellness on an increasing scale, small indulgences — particularly as they relate to food — become more appealing, as they help balance indulgence and control. Starting around 2015, this trend started to plow its way into the food space1 with the rise of things like of mini-appetizers on Pinterest and cup-sized desserts for weddings. “By offering bite-sized takes on cakes and other saliva-inducing foods, brands are letting consumers have their cake, and eat it too — without guilt,”2 says digital firm Trend Hunter.
What we think:
This trend isn’t going away any time soon. There’s a lack of guilt when the indulgence is small and, quite frankly, we all feel we’ve earned that one small treat after a long day of work or adhering to a new diet. And if you ask us, there’s something incredibly satisfying about a mini-splurge. You feel special about the impulse purchase of that $5 cookie because it is hand-crafted and made that morning from a local baker.
How we see it
manifesting in society:
There’s already been an increase of artisan-crafted snacks
and sweets at farmer’s markets, boutiques, and all over Instagram. Large food
manufacturers will continue to develop smaller, artisan-like brands that can
deliver on the quality (and lower price) that consumers seek. This trend already
stretches far beyond food to things like Self-Care Sunday, chair massages, pet
toys or just a half-hour to yourself. We believe we’ll continue to see this
become the norm in many areas of life.