Phil Lempert is known as “The Supermarket Guru” and writes and reports on food trends. In an article in Forbes in December 2017, Lempert says that the year 2017 would go down in history as the “most important ever in grocery,” and calling 2018 “a new food world.”
Lempert says that companies are trying to help brand understand how to become relevant to a new kind of consumer and offer them looks at innovations they’ve never dreamed about.
“The new retail model must be built around the consumer,” he writes, “with the foundation that someone else thought through the way people want to acquire foods, and create an environment that empowers consumers and makes their lives easier, healthier and more enjoyable — whether it be in brick-and-mortar or online (and hopefully both).”
The top 10 trends he’s identified in his Forbes article, “10 Food Trends That Will Shape 2018,” include Mindfulness, Tactile, Farming, NeuroNutrition and BioHacking, Technofoodology, Advertising, Security, Politics and Food and Future Supermarkets.
Here’s a summary of each of Lempert’s 2018 trends:
1. Mindfulness is described as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware.” Innova Market Insights named “mindfulness” its #1 trend for 2018, illustrating how that body-mind connection is influencing new food and beverage product introductions in the supermarket.
“Mindfulness reflects a new consumer attitude, mostly led by millennials, to truly understand everything possible about a particular food or beverage and then support the company, whether it be a brand or a retailer, by aligning with its values and supporting it with purchases.”
2. Tactile. Lempert says the sense of touch is the one trend that will have the biggest impact on the industry. Multi-sensory is the new secret weapon for food in products, their packaging and in-store, he says.
“It’s all about being involved. Feeling and hearing the connection is more important in food than ever. We have witnessed a more intellectual connection to our foods, and now it gets physical. There has been a food information “overload,” and now we need grounding.
3. Farming. Lempert says “It all starts with agriculture — where our food comes from. And that is about to change dramatically.”
By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach 9.6 billion, with 65% of us living in urban areas. Our land, water, soil and environment are all under siege, and the USDA says that climate change is going to create challenges for us all.
Vertical indoor farming is more efficient bringing more farms closer to where people live, reducing expense and environmental impact. These vertical farms offer so many benefits, it’s impossible to ignore this as the farming of the future. One farm acre indoors produces the same yield as four to six acres outdoors.
4. and 5. NeuroNutrition and BioHacking. According to Lempert, NeuroNutrition looks at how our foods affect our brains, and BioHacking breaks all the rules to create a science for more individualized nutrition and products. The food and brain connection is important — from growing foods to cooking to how we eat to the nutrients themselves.
“The unfortunate reality is that the foods we eat are the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S.,” he writes. “About 10% of the world’s population is on some kind of “exclusion diet,” having to avoid certain foods because of a specific ailment or allergy. The U.S. consumer is smarter about food choices than ever, but we still have a long way to go.”
6. Technofoodology. “Technofoodology and Artificial Intelligence are the best things to ever happen to a grocery store. Alexa, Google Home, Sonos and other home-based assistants are ushering in a new way to buy our foods,” Lempert writes. “By 2020, there will be 55 million smart devices in our homes, making that the biggest supermarket chain on the planet.”
Lempert says that what this clearly shows is that the relationship between “the internet of things” and food is here. In our homes, smart refrigerators and cupboards will take over the automatic replenishment of those branded products that we can’t live without.
7. Advertising. “Advertising should inform and get people to buy, no question. When it comes to our foods, it also needs to tell the truth, especially about nutrition,” he writes. “Today, people want a connection with the foods they eat; they want to know where foods come from. And if we can use advertising to empower them to eat healthier, we have achieved success.”
The reality is that three times the number of people trust word of mouth as trust online ads.
“It’s obviously not only what we eat; it is how we communicate our food messages, especially when it comes to nutrition issues that make the difference. What we believe has an impact on what and how much we consume.”
8. Security. A recent American Psychological Association survey found that over one-third of Americans feel nervous or anxious, and a similar amount feel anger or irritability. Retailers in particular should add visible security in-store and in parking areas. People will be avoiding large groups and events, so retailers will bring events in-store, hosting smaller ones and more often.
“The one benefit to all this anxiety? Over half of Americans say that because of the state of the country, they are volunteering and supporting causes that are close to their hearts, which underscores the opportunity for retailers and brands to do the same and align with their current and potential customers’ values.”
9. Politics and Food. The USDA is one of the most powerful and largest government agencies and has not yet been fully staffed. Food Policy Action has created a scorecard that clearly depicts that food has now become a bipartisan issue as many existing regulations are being dismantled. To date there have only been six bills voted on to score, and all the votes have been along strict party lines.
“Among the most troubling political moves to food businesses has been the country’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement,” writes Lempert. ” ‘We Are Still In’ is a commitment heavily supported by food, farmers and ranchers, and CSAs in particular, but only a few retailers have signed on to continue the tenets of the agreement.”
10. Future Supermarkets. It’s been a game-changing year in the grocery/food industry, and has set a foundation in place for an entirely new way to look at supermarkets.
“It’s time we rethink the four-walled structure, much the way Apple has done for its new headquarters,” says Lempert. “The grocery industry should wake up each morning thinking about how we can make the shopping experience better. UNATA reports that 68% of those who shop online are likely to switch retailers for a better online experience.”
Online grocery is at the top of everyone’s list, and there is no doubt that it will continue to grow and evolve, he says. Click-and-collect will become the dominant online. Shoppers do want to have a relationship with their supermarket, but they don’t want the experience to be faceless.
Lempert concludes: “As much as tech might want to disrupt the way people shop and make everything more efficient, let’s remember that this business is all about people and our relationship to shoppers. It’s time to imagine just what a supermarket can be.”