The Rise of the Lifestyle Diet

As we dive head-first into 2019, many people have set goals to eat healthy or lose weight and have begun a variety of diets. More than ever before, fast food and quick-serve/fast-casual chains have seen the value in offering on-the-go options for their keto customers, Whole30-doers and paleo patrons.

Chipotle.com advertising lifestyling bowls for Keto, Paleo, Whole30, and double protein diets.

With 80% of New Year’s resolutions failing by February1, the Chipotle-style restaurants of the world are here to help.

A quick Google search for “best diets of 2019” returns various guides for Whole30, Mediterranean, DASH, paleo, vegan, Nordic, keto, Weight Watchers, Pegan (paleo-vegan), anti-inflammatory…the list goes on. As the general population grows more concerned with their overall health and wellness — and largely having a greater understanding that what works for one person may not for another — they find there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to adding a “diet” to your menu.

What we think:

As diets become lifestyles, chains that already incorporate customization on their menus have an easier time accommodating specific dietary desires. That being said, this opens a whole new door to mass-acceptance of healthier, nutrient-rich demand when dining out in quick-serve situations. You used to only find this type of dietary accommodation around LA or New York, maybe San Fran or Seattle, but never before has this level of dietary acceptance been made across the nation.

As dietary standards rise, restaurants — and therefore manufacturers — have no choice but to adapt alongside their customers.

A few chains incorporating specialized diets on their menus2:

  • Chipotle (keto, paleo, Whole30, double-protein)
  • Roti Modern Mediterranean (Gluten-Free Rice Plate, Keto Salad, Vegan Pita)
  • Chick-fil-A (paleo, keto or Whole30-friendly options: grilled nuggets and superfood salad, spicy southwest salad, grilled market salad)
  • In-N-Out Burger (protein-style paleo burger)
  • Taco Bell (keto options, highly customizable menu)

What’s next:

We pose the question: are many of these diets even a fad? They’ve been around for some time now, only growing in popularity. The differences in today’s “fad diets” and those of the 90s are whole foods, higher fat, and focus on origin of food, rather than low-fat shakes and non-fat cheese.

Used-to-be “alternative lifestyles” are now mainstream and restaurants are finally recognizing them as such. McDonald’s UK now offers vegan and vegetarian Happy Meal options3, and McDonald’s Sweden recently launched their first vegan Happy Meal4 — the McFalafel. Add those to the list of restaurants already offering options like the Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat, and we will see vegan options on more menus in 20195.

Keep an eye out for greater transparency in food origin, lower sweetness levels6, and values at the center of purchasing decisions for these large chains. Dining options that have previously limited their stake in these issues are getting pressure from consumers to adapt, and, as a result, these chains will likely turn to manufacturers to help accommodate these requests.

[1] “80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February — here’s how to keep yours.” Business Insider. January 2017.
[2] “8 Fast Food Joints With Surprisingly Great Paleo and Whole30 Meals.” Thrillist. January 2019.
[3] “McDonald’s UK Launches Its First Vegan Happy Meal.” VegNews. January 2019.
[4] “McDonald’s Just Launched Its First Vegan Happy Meal In Sweden.” Delish. January 2019.
[5] “The year of the vegan.” The Economist. January 2019.
[6] “10 Macro Trends Impacting Food And Beverage Innovation In 2019.” Forbes. January 2019.

Small Risk, Sweet Reward

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.

[1] “Tiny Foods Are Taking Over the Internet.” InStyle. July 2016.
[2] “Small Indulgence: Miniature treats and sweets help consumers control consumption.” Trend Hunter.

AI + Food

Do you know what you’re having for dinner tonight? Do you know where you’d like to go out to lunch for that birthday celebration coming up in February? How about what new and exciting menu item you might venture out on a limb to try at a restaurant next summer? I honestly can’t answer a single one of these questions and of course, that’s not really the point. What matters is that our hyper-personal flavor preferences are changing at a rapid rate and food manufacturers could benefit from understanding not just what they are today, but to have some indicators of what they might be in the future. That is just one of many – slightly unexpected – ways that artificial intelligence (AI) may come into play in the industry.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

We recently heard from Jason Cohen, the founder of Gastrograph AI, about how artificial intelligence can not only uncover, but also predict consumer preferences when it comes to flavor, aroma, and texture.1 An AI platform driven by consumer data, it analyzes individual’s sensitivities and biases to different flavors and informs how those flavors may need to be tweaked based on age, ethnicity and gender of a target audience.

AI is making its way into the food industry in a number of ways. While this industry is not always on the forefront when it comes to technology, the solutions coming forward address areas of tension like labor, supply chain, food safety, and food production.2

WHAT WE THINK

AI has the potential to aid manufacturers and retailers in not only understanding but predicting human behavior when it comes to their flavor preferences. Resources like Gastrograph AI could have real, immediate impact on business decisions like new product development and launch plans.1

The reality is that AI doesn’t take the human out of the equation, though. In fact, in ways, it puts more onus on decision-makers to effectively understand and use it to positively impact business.

WHAT’S NEXT

This is just the start. We know that consumers expect more from the food industry when it comes to transparency and personalization. Couple that with significant gaps when it comes to food management (both production and waste) and it’s clear why testing and adoption of these technologies is increasing. We’ll keep our finger on the pulse as success stories and learnings come forward.

[1] “52 Things We Learned & Experienced at Foodscape 2.” Datassential. Datassential: Issue 57. September 2018.
[2] “6 Examples of Artificial Intelligence in the Food Industry.” Garver, Krista. Food Industry Executive. April 2018.

Global Insights to Share

On our recent trip to Paris for SIAL 2018, the largest international food and beverage innovation show, we had the chance to sit in on a few very compelling seminars. A global study of consumers’ behaviors, attitudes and expectations regarding their food were the focus of “Food 360”, a breakout led by Kantar TNS and conducted exclusively for SIAL.1

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Led by Kantar TNS, one of the world’s largest research agencies with experts in over 80 countries, the 2018 multi-country market report represents a wide range of geographies: the UK and the USA, Russia, China, Middle Eastern countries, Southeast Asian countries and a range of countries in the EU.1

With the intention of understanding what most motivates consumers around the globe when it comes to food choices, three key factors emerged: Taste, Truth, and Meaning.1 Right off the bat, those sound “right on”, don’t they? Interestingly enough, how those words translate varies by region. This illustrates how important it is to really dig in to understand the ever-changing nuances in what matters to consumers and how they define those when it comes to food products.

HOW DOES IT TRANSLATE?

Taste: As defined by the quality of food products – flavor does matter! In fact, it is #1 across the globe when it comes to consumers’ expectations and behavior. But taste encompasses more than just flavor – it spans a broader definition that implies a holistic experience with taste. In this study, different regions prioritized the below factors when defining “taste”:

  • Varying Meals and Flavors
  • Balanced Diet
  • Good Quality Foods

Truth: Transparency. This is clearly articulated in different ways based on the region and the variation may be based on consumer and food supply sophistication. Regardless, it’s clear that consumers want more sightline into the food products they choose. When it comes to “truth”, different regions prioritized these factors:

  • Origin (including Ingredients List!)
  • Farming / Breeding Conditions
  • Food Safety

Terra Creta Olive Oil (42 varieties identified)
Terra Creta Olive Oil (42 varieties identified)

Meaning: Food choices that align with personal values is becoming more important. As with personal values, the range of what encompasses values broadens at the global scale. The topics / issues remain in the same realm but the actions to support (or negate) them requires a closer finger on the pulse of the people and culture. As defined by different geographies, the factors that align with “meaning” are:

  • Biodegradable / Less Packaging
  • Farmers + Breeders Compensation
  • Animal Well-Being

WHAT WE THINK

The intuitiveness and familiarity of the results shared do not diminish their importance. In fact, it further supports the significance that food choices play in a consumers’ life and that these choices are becoming not only more integrated but also more personal. While Taste, Truth and Meaning are rather familiar based on trends in this industry, they are not simple “factors” and should encourage us all to stay curious about how consumers think and feel about choices when it comes to food products.

WHAT’S NEXT

Spending a day in the life of a farmer sheds light on the incredibly complex and dynamic business we know as agriculture. The next generation has new, steep challenges ahead that will lean on innovative thinking and a purpose-driven approach.

[1] “Food 360: 2018.” Kantar TNS. Kantar TNS: SIAL, Paris. October 2018.

See What We Saw at SIAL

SIAL 2018 is a 5-day food innovation exhibition that took place last week in Paris, France. The largest international food and beverage innovation show, there were over 7,200 exhibitors from 119 countries around the world. And in a space that spanned the equivalent of more than 100 supermarkets end to end, there were more than 400,000 products shared across the 300,000 stakeholders from the industry.

SIAL 2018 is a 5-day food innovation exhibition that took place last week in Paris, France.

WHY WE WERE THERE

Aside from the sheer scale itself, this show is not to be missed when it comes to understanding food trends at a global scale. We’ve attended a number of North American-based shows like Expo West and Fancy Foods, and we’ve seen that innovation in food and beverage is occurring across nearly every category—rapidly. SIAL provided a unique EU and global viewpoint. It showcased trends that align with what is happening in different markets around the world – a combination of innovation and representation of high-demand consumer products in familiar categories.

SIAL had specific tracks dedicated to sharing these trends in an organized fashion – innovation, culinary, and country/region representation—in an atmosphere that was inspiring and interactive. A “Future Lab” captured what may be the biggest influencers on the industry by the year 2030. And by gathering producers, distributors, brands (both large and small), restaurateurs and ingredient providers, this was truly a show that brought the global food industry together for a productive week.

WHAT’S NEXT

We came back with a lot to share – including what we saw on the show floor, the seminars we attended hosted by leading research firms, trends and innovations, and the many conversations with industry stakeholders around the world. Over the upcoming issues of Thought for Food, we will be sharing our thoughts and experiences with you.

 

Photo credit: SIAL Paris

The Values of Food

As consumers have a wider range of choices in the businesses and brands available to them, social causes are beginning to play a more substantial role in their selection process. When 8 out of 10 consumers do not believe that large food companies try their best to be socially responsible or act in the best interests of their customers1, it’s important to uncover what consumers are looking for instead.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

More than 75% of consumers support philanthropic causes in their personal lives and many are actively contributing time and energy to make a positive impact.1 Additionally, 64% of consumers want food companies to be engaged in a public way regarding their social impact.1 Transparency – in all industries – is increasing with speed of access to information. In turn, consumers realize that they can ask to know more about the businesses they support in their daily lives.

WHAT WE THINK

Personal values are just that – personal. And while consumers are interested in knowing more about what you as a company support, it’s just as important to know “how”. With a complex landscape of priorities around sensitive topics like food access, waste, transparency, ethical sourcing and more, supporting a cause that aligns with your core values matters more than ever. Consumers want to see their dollars in action. In fact, more than 80% say that your public donations are the most convincing effort you can make to prove your support. 1

And what role does this play on a consumer’s “final decision”? When you are aligned, the positive impact makes a difference. In fact, 64% of consumers will continue to purchase from a specific brand or company even when a better product is available, simply because they value what that brand or company stands for. And 25% of those same consumers will not only continue to purchase, but they’ll encourage others to do the same. 1

WHAT’S NEXT

The integration of business, personal values and charitable causes will continue to grow in importance. Younger generations consistently skew their focus on what, why and how this is communicated, with the intention of making better informed decisions. This dynamic presents an opportunity to step back and think about how to push for a more socially integrated business.

 

[1] “Personal Values and Food.” Datassential. Datassential: Food with a Story. Foodscape 2. September 2018.

Start-Ups: Getting Local

With an $18 billion shift since 2011 from big food companies to small food entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry, consumers continue to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to diversifying the products in their shopping cart and in their home.[1] Minneapolis – home to us and many of our clients – has a rich history in the food industry. That makes our backyard a hot spot for emerging trends, continued innovation, new brands, and an ecosystem that continues gaining strength.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Minnesota is home to 74,500 farms and the food and beverage industry employs more than 49,000 people, while contributing $4.9 billion to the state’s economy each year. We have more than 700 food companies, and many of them are Fortune 500 companies supported with incredible talent and experience.[2]

Grow North is “a central hub for resources, a mobilizing connector and ecosystem navigator” and an example of a ground-up network that has been established to drive intentional connection between entrepreneurs and organizations, in an effort to support growth in our food and beverage community. Just around the corner, the first ever Food Ag Ideas Week will take place in St. Paul and Minneapolis, a week-long platform centered around topics like sustainable agriculture, food innovation and tech, and food and society.

Minnesota isn’t the first to bring together a broad industry representation to discuss progressive topics in this space. Other innovative food hubs – Colorado, Austin, and more – also see the importance of coming together (big and small, across the industry) as a reflection of the greater social and economic role that food and beverage play in the community.

WHAT WE THINK

It’s energizing and more important than ever to keep our finger on the pulse in our local community. There is so much happening in our own backyard that it can be challenging to determine what events and activities to prioritize. So our team has committed to spending more time out in the community where the action is happening, with both big and small companies. What we’ve found so far is that there is no shortage of passion on all fronts and a united desire to support success.

WHAT’S NEXT

If the trend continues, there will be more fragmentation and even bigger demand, creating a structure that leverages knowledge-sharing and drives innovation among food and agricultural leaders. Tactically, what’s next for us is to head out to some of the many upcoming roundtables, panels and discussions.

We hope to see you at FAI! There are still spots available: Register Here

 

[1] “Millenials are driving an $18 billion food revolution.” Marinova, Polina. Fortune. October 2015.
[2] “Food & Beverage Products Made in Minnesota.” Boehm, Jessica Walker. Livability. October 2016.

Personalized Nutrition

A rapidly growing trend, personalized nutrition – unique nutrition plans for an individual – is projected to grow $17 billion over the next 4 years.[1] This is the staggering prediction shared at Datassential’s recent Foodscape event, and it drove much of the content that was shared with the 400+ attendees in Chicago. Hyper-personalization is seen as the next evolution in healthy eating and it has the potential to impact the industry from every angle.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

Customization is ingrained and expected on many fronts – today’s consumers are used to having products tailored to their needs and desires. Consider fashion, with companies like Stitch Fix providing personal styling and wardrobe items delivered directly to your door. Or grocery, with Amazon Prime reminding you which items are likely on your list based on prior orders. Or even any of the apps that serve us personalized content every day– Spotify, Netflix, Bitmoji, YouTube and more. It’s no longer “creepy” that brands know us so well. On the contrary, it’s expected. And it’s frustrating when they get it wrong.

WHAT WE THINK

It’s no surprise that this trend is making its way to food and beverage. Beyond the obvious extensions like fast casual restaurants that serve customized frozen yogurt / burrito / personal pizza / coffee / salad / you name it, consumers are constantly hunting better choices for their individual life experience. At the same time, over the past year we have seen the growing influence that Gen Z has on all food trends – their spend and influence is growing and, as we explored earlier this year, has the most substantial impact on “what’s next”.

Taking the cross section of “customization” and “Gen Z” a step further, 60% of younger consumers are beginning to use tech for food-related personal purposes. Think fitness trackers, recipe apps, food diaries and more. While the jump might seem steep, early studies show that progressive eaters indicate their interest in personalized apps and recipes. And this is where things start to get really interesting.[2]

As consumers integrate inputs from all parts of their life to provide a full view of wellness, personalized nutrition that incorporates basic biometrics, physical activity, known health issues/tendencies and more will inevitably influence the way people shop at retail and while dining out. What that looks like will evolve over time – but it’s certainly on the horizon.

WHAT’S NEXT

Food plans tailored to an individual’s unique “data” already exist. But only a small portion of the population is engaged with nutrition at that level. We’ll need to keep an eye on how more information shapes consumers’ decision-making criteria – and what role “taste” has in the process.

 

[1] “Personalized Nutrition and Food.” Datassential. Datassential: Food with a Story. Foodscape 2. September 2018.
[2] “52 Things We Learned & Experienced at Foodscape 2.” Datassential. Datassential: Issue 57. September 2018.

Future Farms of America: Listen Up

The future of farming likely looks very different than what you might think. I recently visited a number of farms in western Minnesota where the Redwood County Farm Bureau hosted a tour that exposed us to modern agriculture production – the practices, challenges and opportunities on the horizon for the industry. This outing came on the heels of many other discussions over the past year at events, including Esca Bona and Expo West, focused on “good food movements” and further confirms the systemic changes underway.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING

People will always have to eat. It’s one of the things we love about being in this industry – it’s always changing, but it’s always in demand. However, the population is growing at a rate that requires farmers globally to increase production by 70%1 in coming years to feed the 9.1 billion people expected to be alive in 2050. Simultaneously, income levels are increasing within developing countries which gives consumers a larger voice to demand quality food products that align with their nutrition needs and preferences.

This is forcing a number of farming components to change dramatically and rapidly. The two that stand out from the discussions highlighted on our farm tours? The growers and the technology.

WHAT WE THINK

According to the 2012 agriculture census, growers who are older than 65 outnumber farmers who are younger than 45 for the first time in history.1 The prediction is that farming will continue to consolidate to more mid- and large-scale farms and that the younger farmers will approach the business from a “farm-management” position. Research indicates that Millennial growers are educated (57% have a bachelor degree), tech-focused, and business-savvy.2 They also view farming as a business and a lifestyle – and that as a demographic they are highly purpose-driven.2 This was backed by every farmer who spoke on the tour, who shared that the passion is rooted in much more than the business itself. For younger growers, it is truly a way of life.

Technology showed up in some surprising ways along the tour, but most interesting was the impact it is making on effective farming practices. The dairy farm we visited was managed by people but operated by robots. The implementation of robots allowed this farmer to remain in business – without it, the labor costs would have been too much to compete with larger producers. Apart from robots, many farms rely on imaging from drones to inform soil and field analysis. This data can be critical in maximizing production through planting, spraying, monitoring and harvesting.

WHAT’S NEXT

Spending a day in the life of a farmer sheds light on the incredibly complex and dynamic business we know as agriculture. The next generation has steep challenges ahead that will depend on innovative thinking and a purpose-driven approach.

[1] “Trending 2050: Future of Farming.” McMahon, Karen. Syngenta. Thrive. Spring 2017.
[2] “Millennial are Increasingly Making Key Farming Decisions.” Maulsby, Darcy. Syngenta. Thrive. Winter 2017.

Crickets: They’re What’s for Dinner

“One hundred thousand crickets…in your basement?” With this excerpt from a recent conversation, Eric Palen, a local entrepeneur who is in the business of farming insects as food, raised a lot of questions and even more eyebrows about this growing trend. After the “gross factor” fades, the facts emerge. It turns out we’ve found a new source of protein that’s compelling for… well, a number of surprisingly good reasons.

Nearly 2,000 insect species are already a part of diets across the globe and they’re making their way to North America in a variety of forms. In fact, the global edible insect market is forecasted to grow to $153.9M in North America by 2023 and over $1 billion worldwide.1

GOOD GOD, WHY?

As the world population grows along with a demand on global resources, alternative protein sources are a heightened concern. Insects take less of a toll on these resources while still delivering a compelling nutrition profile.

Insect farming, on average, requires significantly less land, water and feed than other species – especially with the recent adoption of modern agricultural practices like vertical farming in place. To produce 1 kg of beef, 38x more land, 23x more water and 12x more feed are required compared to insects. This results in approximately 1800x the greenhouse gas emissions.

In conversation with Palen, post-growth production of cricket protein is pretty straightforward. To harvest the crickets, he freezes them before washing, boiling and roasting them. From there, they can be consumed in “whole cricket” form or alternatively, ground down into a powder for use in smoothies, chocolate, protein bars or breads.

On the nutrition front, crickets (whether in “whole” or “powder” form) contain comparable levels of protein to beef and higher levels of iron. They are considered a complete protein source – containing all of the essential amino acids, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and are high in both calcium and vitamin B12.2 It is easy to see why this food source would be explored further as we begin to think creatively about how to effectively feed a growing world population.

WHAT WE THINK

Environmental and nutritional considerations alone don’t make me want to top a Cobb salad with roasted crickets. That being said, we can’t overlook the logic in why and how insects might be a part of the North American food pyramid moving forward. Already commonplace in many large markets around the world, it may just take some time – and experience – to find out how they fit.

As cricket powder and flour makes its way into mainstream through more familiar formats, like bars and breads, there will be a more approachable delivery to educate consumers on the social, environmental and nutritional benefits of insects as protein. It will be an important link in the food chain to keep an eye on as it brings up real issues of “food and footprint” – and how we responsibly balance impact with real consumer demand.

WHAT’S NEXT

Not unlike most new product launches, crickets and other insects will likely gain adoption through innovators and early adopters. Eating an insect is, admittedly, a highly Instagrammable moment, and we see that venues and restaurants have an opportunity to lead from two primary places: experience and culture. Outside of the “wow-factor”, many insect dishes are traditional to various regions and offer chefs a new product to experiment with in menu development. When it comes to edible insects, powder may increase in quantity more rapidly, but whole form will drive awareness with visual impact. 

Just some Thought for Food™

[1] “Insects as Food.” Warren, Haley. de Sousa, Agnieska. Rekoaa, Roni. Bloomberg. July 2018.
[2] “Little Herds: Feeding the Future with Insects”. Articles and Iconographic(s) provided by Little Herds.

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