Don’t you love “trend stories?”
Those oh-so pretentious articles that line up three, or seven, or a maybe a top ten trendy developments list certain to impact (fill in name of industry or consumer sector) in the (months, years, decades) ahead — and you can (get ahead of the curve, get on board the bandwagon, get left behind, loser) by making sure you scroll through every single word in the story.
These pieces can be found in virtually every business publication or website on Earth — I’ve written more than a few of ’em myself over the years — and most of the time, they can be lumped into one of two categories:
1). “Duh!” or 2). “Seriously?”
(My bylines excepted, of course).
Especially when it comes to food-related reports, trend stories are as much a staple of the genre as articles touting “Fabulous foods that help you stay slim and tone up” or “Fast, easy, delicious recipes your family will love!”
But I’ll give the website Food Dive some credit for creativity. Its “4 global consumer trends shaking up food, beverage marketing” story broke free (kind of) from the stereotypical topics of convenience, quality and value. At any rate, their choices are not what most people would imagine.
Here are the four trends Food Dive considered shake-up-worthy:
Gender Blurring. No, we’re not talking Caitlyn Jenner here, but rather the “fluidity” that food marketers are pursuing when it comes to developing and positioning products no longer sold exclusively to males (steak) or females (salad). Beyond broadening category appeal, gender blurring also recognizes that the traditional “housewife” in charge of the weekly grocery shopping is fast becoming an endangered species. As Food Dive’s report noted, “Some 43% of primary household shoppers are now men, and thus advertising is moving toward the club and convenience stores and online retailers males prefer.” [Comment: So for all the “gender blurring,” ads are still targeted to traditional gender stereotypes. Nice try, Food Dive].
Greener Food. “Greener” meaning cleaner labeling and natural ingredients, not more broccoli and spinach. Despite the premium price point for greener foods, Food Dive claimed that consumers worldwide “strongly prefer” products that respond to their concerns about nutrition and environmental impact. OUT: Trans fat, added sugar and artificial additives. IN: Low-fat, added protein and no GMOs. [Comment: A worldwide trend? I don’t know. It’s a pretty thin market segment when your target is consumers who are health-obsessed AND affluent enough to deal with the sticker shock at the checkout stand.]
Mental Well-being. People’s interest in maintaining a positive outlook on life — and growing awareness of the connection between diet and depression — provide food marketers a chance to “engage with consumers on a more personal level,” the report stated, “and to [address] their innate desire to feel better about themselves.” Modern consumers are “struggling to live more healthfully, and brands that tap into that are very wise.” [Comment: That old saw about “health, wealthy and wise?” Just go straight to “healthy and wealthy” and be done with it, okay?]
Overconnected Consumers. This opportunity is all about the “on-the-go” lifestyle we all supposedly enjoy, which is a euphemism for “over-worked and stressed-out.” But what does it mean for food marketers? Food Dive kindly offered some trendy advice: “Many food categories are creating snack-friendly versions of their products and functional beverages that can serve as meal replacements.” [Comment: Great. The end point of this “on-the-go” trend is the “meal-in-a-pill” that’s been a science fiction staple since, well . . . since pills were invented.]
For readers searching for the wisdom only real experts can share, the Food Dive report was salted with plenty of marketing clichés, such as, “appealing to analog product experiences,” meaning advertising aimed at those human dinosaurs who are so freakin’ old (over 35) they actually know what “analog” means; and “manufacturers must stay on top of cultural shifts to meet consumers’ evolving food and beverage needs,” meaning that if you hire the geniuses who composed that ultra-obvious sentence, they’ll be happy to present you with a 300-page report filled with similar brilliance.
The “premium price point” for that level of intel?
Figure about $10 bucks a page.
That oughta do it.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator