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Consumer Priorities Impacting Food Choices in 2015

BY: PMA Research | DATE: January 29, 2015

Today's consumers are more food literate than ever before and they are participating in a diverse and dynamic food life. As the U.S. economy improves, they say they are willing to pay more for products and services that align with their top priorities, which include:

Health and Wellness

Health and wellness was important to consumers in 2014 and shows no sign of slowing down. According to Technomic Inc.'s recently released Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Reportreleased in November, "there is no standard definition for health; it means different things to different people. What's becoming clear is that today's consumers see eating well as fundamental in their pursuit of a high quality of life and long term wellbeing. Consumers are determining their own definitions of what it means to be healthy and how food contributes to their health and wellness. Some see food as medicine that should be modified as little as possible; others see it as being fuel for the body that should be nutritious; while others think food should just taste good, as well as being healthy and enjoyable. For many it means finding a balance between healthy eating and indulgence that can be emotionally fulfilling.  

One of the ways consumers are incorporating health and wellness into their diets is through minimally processed food. Health-oriented consumers are seeking shorter, cleaner ingredient lists and trying to limit items they consider dangerous to their health. According to Willard Bishop's annual report,The Future of Food Retailing,  U.S. consumers' interest in fresh foods continues to grow as the housing market and economy start to regain momentum. Enthusiasm continues to rise for non-processed foods as well as local and organic produce, and stores that deliver continue to be successful. Foods without artificial ingredients but with "clean labels" - those that highlight fresh, less processed, no additives and/or simple ingredients on labels are growing in importance for consumers, and these terms have become part of their health and wellness vocabulary. The fact that consumers place value on these attributes makes products like fresh fruits and vegetables well positioned for sales growth.

Transparency and Authenticity

Transparency and authenticity are important values for consumers and demonstrating both is the first step to gaining credibility and loyalty with them. Consumers equate corporate transparency with social, environmental and labor standards, and expect to be able to access any company's policies on these issues at any time. And as Fast Company noted, "as technology generates more transparency, consumers will hold businesses to higher standards, with no room for fabrication or deceit".  2015 will see growing consumer concerns with the genuineness, origins and integrity of food products. In their quest for transparency and authenticity, consumers will be asking: What's in it?; How was it made?; Who made it?; and What's the story behind it? Transparency and authenticity will continue to be key variables to generating a "unique value" for companies in the future because unlike prices, products and technologies, they cannot be duplicated and produce marketers have an opportunity to be proactive in providing the information and helping shape consumers' opinions. Hartman Group research shows that millennials have the strongest propensity to spend more on products from companies investing in social betterment. As their spending power increases in coming years, produce marketers can focus on determining how their products can create a shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segment.


Societies are becoming more multicultural and as that happens; it changes their tastes and preferences for food. The internet has created unprecedented access to global information empowering citizens to do things they couldn't do before (ex: buy products and services, try food and ingredients, pursue education and jobs, etc.). This new empowerment and the desire for food exploration and discovery is slowly expanding a sense of adventure among many Americans as they look to incorporate a wide variety of cuisines into their diets. In the United States, Latino, Asian and other non-European ethnic groups now account for most of the foreign-born population. The size of the millennial generation is driven by immigration, making millennials more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation. Along with older cohorts, millennials prefer the familiar comforts found in classic American dishes and the foods of their youth; however, millennials' taste for anything new and different remains strong, and products that deliver global inspiration resonate well with them. According to FMI'sU.S. Grocery Shopping Trends 2014report,"young adults not only seek novelty and variety but also authenticity and health, and therefore attempt to find new flavors and dishes with a heritage they can leverage." Growing ethnic diversity is impacting the types of food and ingredients consumers shop for to eat at home, as well as what they eat away from home, contributing to the transition of niche products into mainstream staples. 

Shopping Made Simple

Consumers are willing to buy products and services that optimize the use of their time and they are looking to a convenient shopping experience as one way to achieve this. According to Willard Bishop's annual report,The Future of Food Retailing, "A quick and easy shopping experience continues to be a theme, and online shopping for food and consumables continues to grow well into the future." Business Insider predicts that between 2013 and 2018, online grocery sales will grow at a compound annual rate of 21.1 percent, reaching nearly $18 billion, while offline grocery sales will rise by 3.1 percent annually during the same period. Brands cater to this trend through the seamless integration of digital and physical experiences. Online grocery services and delivery networks are growing as large tech companies like Amazon and subscription prepared meals like Plated and Hello Fresh enter the field. These new services and delivery networks along with the rapid growth of internet retailing is forcing successful retailers to implement an omni-channel approach to the shopping experience with the different channels complimenting one another, as opposed to competing.  According to the Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert, look for products to evolve and cater to online shoppers. Lempert predicts that more brands will bundle multiple SKUs to create meal kits or offer pre-packaged sets of multiple products.


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