Understanding consumer values and preferences is crucial for foodservice operators to stay competitive. According toChicken of the Sea’s new continuing education (CE) course, Inside Consumer Demand, “The customer experience is driven by a multitude of consumer values associated with dining and food choices. Attention to choices around lifestyle, wellness, sustainability, convenience, and brand trust are among the factors that converge to create a successful consumer experience with your foodservice establishment.” The course provides insights into emerging consumer trends and values that can help foodservice operators advance revenues and profitability.
Influences on food choices
The pandemic has significantly altered consumer eating habits. “Historically, there has been a rhythm to eating patterns in America; somewhat predictable habits formed by daily routines and needs,” according to The NPD Group, as cited in the course. Since the pandemic, though, all this has changed. “The rate of change in U.S. consumers’ eating behaviors continues at a dizzying pace,” said David Portalatin of NPD.
Capturing market share requires an understanding of consumer lifestyles and emerging trends in the consumer mindset. Today’s consumers increasingly prioritize wellness, meal value, and sustainability when making food choices.
A desire for wellness
Wellness and functional foods have gained traction as consumers transition from emotional to intentional eating. As a result, more than half of all U.S. consumers are now following a diet or eating pattern, driven by desires to protect long-term health, lose weight, and enjoy functional benefits from foods, according to the IFIC 2022 Food & Health Survey.
Inflation favors foodservice
Food cost inflation has led consumers to seek value in both grocery shopping and out-of-home dining. Interestingly, menu prices in foodservice establishments have been rising at a lower rate than grocery prices, making eating out a source of value for consumers. Experts cited in the course point to healthy rates of restaurant spending by consumers today.
Sustainability a key value
Sustainability continues to grow as a consumer value, with a majority of Americans indicating that a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. In its 2022 Food & Health Survey, IFIC identified “a sharp uptick in prioritization of environmental sustainability” driving American’s food choices, explains the course.
Brands that emphasize sustainability, social responsibility, and other environmental, social, and governance initiatives often achieve higher sales growth and consumer loyalty, according to research. Furthermore, values-driven food choices are gaining importance, with 83% of consumers saying they are “willing to substitute for beef at least once a week to help the environment,” reported the Institute of Food Technologists. Their number-one substitution for beef is seafood.
Snacking trends have evolved, with many consumers replacing meals with snacks. “Consumers are aligning their snack choices with values around health and nutrition, as well as sourcing, social responsibility, and sustainability,” explains the course.
Foodservice operators can capitalize on these trends by offering shareable snacks for social connections, incorporating nutrition and sustainability into their offerings, and experimenting with new products.
By adapting to fluid consumer lifestyles and focusing on value, convenience, wellness, and sustainability, foodservice establishments can capitalize on emerging consumer trends and succeed in a changing landscape.
For references and a deeper dive into consumer demand, take the free continuing education course, Inside Consumer Demand, approved for 1 hr CE or RDNs, DTRs, CDM, CFPPs, and Certified Chefs.