Chasing Trends

The product lineup was right on trend at this year's IDDBA expo.

Technology is permeating the consumer experience at an increasing rate. Folks are couponing more than ever before. Do-it-yourself-ing is on the rise.

These are just a few of the trends facing the retail grocery industry, among the dozens touched upon by Carol Christison, executive director of the Madison, Wis.-based International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association, in her keynote address to attendees of the 2011 Dairy-Deli-Bake in Anaheim, Calif., in June.

Meanwhile, the show floor during the three-day event was populated by exhibitors showing off their latest and greatest products, which they hope will address these key trends and meet the ever-changing demands of discriminating consumers.

Take, for example, trend No. 37 on Christison's list: The breakfast daypart. According to data she cited, breakfast traffic at traditional supermarkets was up to 19 percent in 2010, up from 14 percent a year earlier. "The secret to a great breakfast is coffee," says trend No. 38. To be sure, Starbucks and other coffee operations have spread like wildfire through supermarkets across the country, complementing in-store bakeries.

But humans don't live by bread alone. So the folks at Minneapolis-based General Mills exhibited breakfast innovations that not only tap consumers' desire for something different, but also allow retailers to maximize existing equipment.

Leveraging its Pillsbury brand, Big G has rolled out Crescent Scrambles, puff pastry surrounding egg and cheese with sausage or spinach. This grab-and-go item can be kept hot and ready in rotisserie chicken warmers that otherwise would sit empty during the morning hours. Additionally, General Mills' Nature Valley Soft Baked Bars offer both a toasty dose of whole grains and a healthy alternative to doughnuts and pastries.

Then there's trend No. 4: "Local Somewhere"; people want to know a product's source, whether it's their backyard or their home country. Among the many products addressing this movement were wares in the Wisconsin cheese pavilion. Assorted homegrown cheeses — either American originals or domestic takes on imports — came from brands such as Arla, BelGioioso, Crystal Farms, DCI Cheese, Emmi-Roth Käse, Masters Gallery, Saputo and Sartori. California producers had a similar exhibit, with products from brands including Joseph Gallo Farms, Fiscalini and Pacific Cheese.

And there's actually something comforting, from an innovation standpoint, in trend No. 10: "Discomfort Foods" — "Topsy-turvy food encourages consumers to try new foods and experiences outside their comfort zone." Pushing the envelope are new products like Artisan Wine Jellies from Sandpoint, Idaho-based Litehouse Foods. Made with wines such as Merlot, Cabernet and Chardonnay, the jellies are meant to be incorporated into hors d'oeuvre toppings along with dried fruits, nuts and pungent cheeses, to create unique flavor combinations.

According to a Yahoo study — and trend No. 71 — 51 percent of men say they're the primary shopper in their household. That's a cue to retailers and suppliers, long used to Mom being the primary grocery gatekeeper, to pay more attention to this demographic. It's also a boon to such guy-centric products as Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based Golden Island, which displayed an extensive line of beef and pork jerky, bringing to the snack aisle a range of exotic flavors such as Cabernet Rosemary, Mandarin Orange and Kung Pao.

And whether it's learning about these new products, finding out how to use them or obtaining a coupon to purchase them, smartphone technology is increasingly coming into play. Social media, coupon and recipe sites, and phone apps can be found at every level of food retailing, Christison noted. "Mobile messages are cheaper than direct mail," she said, referring to trend No. 45, "and are redeemed five times more often than paper."

IDDBA's 47th annual seminar and expo hit all-time-high numbers for attendance (8,554) and exhibits (1,576). The next expo is scheduled for June 10-12, 2012, in New Orleans.

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