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November 15, 2023
In the blink of an eye, we are officially in the midst of all things holiday and food. And in this season where shared eating experiences are at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the FreshRealm team reflects on a year’s worth of trends and consumer attitudes that will continue to shape the food industry landscape into 2024.
There was a time when grocery retailers could reasonably predict what flavors and products were going to bubble up in any given year. But were Butter Boards or #GirlDinner on any forecasting trends list in recent years? Likely not. Given the growing influence of micro trends like these, we expect more real time shifts in grocery purchasing trends. And the key to success is rapid product development and meal ideas that resonate. The retailers who will maintain the upper hand will be the ones nimble enough to forecast and highlight these trends in real time, driving social cache and enhancing the bottom line for their business.
It’s not just about snacking anymore. In a recent DataEssentials Mid Year 2023 Report, survey results showed that when asked what they crave, 44% of consumers said they’re all about the entrée - with modernized comfort foods, like elevated mac & cheese, garnering 36% of consumers' share-of-stomach. This shift could be the result of consumers’ evolving day part eating habits - which began to change during the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, given the prevalent hybrid and remote work lifestyle in the U.S. the coveted home cooked meal can be more easily achieved at any time of day.
Produce continues to grow its overall presence in the grocery basket. According to NIQ and Circana data, produce sales jumped by 5.2% in 2023. While the consumption of produce is a tried and true staple, flavor explorers and adventurous eaters see the blank canvas of fresh produce as the perfect opportunity to add a bit more flavor to the profile. As cucumber occasions now become a bread & butter pickle occasion or as corn on the cob evolves to fire-roasted corn, expect further creativity to be a cornerstone of the 2024 landscape.
Small tweaks to a recipe can yield big results. Consumers are finding ways to keep consumption moments fresh and exciting. So where things like butter, chili and garlic once existed, consumers are increasingly whipping up twists on the familiar with combinations like apple butter, sweet chili and honey garlic. Now these full-flavored occasions are expected to find a firmer place in the home kitchen in 2024.
Sustainability continues to be at the forefront of consumer conversations. However, findings from the McKinsey Consumer Pulse Survey show the widening gap between the importance of sustainability to Gen Z and Millennial audiences and their older counterparts. Nearly 50% of Gen Z and Millennial respondents place a premium on sustainably sourced products, with Gen X (23%) and Baby Boomers (16%) putting far less stock in environmentally friendly products. These stark contrasts will put grocery retailers on the front burner as they continue to focus on reaching younger audiences.
As we round out the year, our team remains inspired by how the ready-to-heat category at retail continues to flourish, especially amidst a challenging time of inflation. According to Forbes, sales of prepared meals in supermarkets grew 8.3% over the past year. And while these November and December months see more seats at the dinner table with less time to spare, FreshRealm’s strength in partnering with retail to provide high value fresh meals to support a nourishing at home meal ritual, proves vital.
Remaining on the forefront of omnichannel food trends at a moment like this is important. And as a company built on culinary, supply chain and operational excellence and deep experience in marketing and design, the FreshRealm platform will continue to work to create meals and experiences that resonate with shoppers and their ever changing lifestyles. We invite you to learn more at https://freshrealm.com/.