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Crookies, Banh Mi Boards and Muhammara

All the latest trends in grocery were hot topics at IDDBA 2024
Gina Acosta, Progressive Grocer
At IDDBA 2024 from left: Anne-Marie Roerink of 210 Analytics; Jewel Hunt of Albertsons; Josh Bickford of Clyde's Donuts; Jody Barrick of UNFI; and David Searle of Land O'Lakes.

For its 60th annual trade show, the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) had one goal in mind: Remind everyone in the industry how the perimeter drives trips, incremental sales and growth regardless of macro-economic conditions or generational shifts.

IDDBA accomplished just that this week in Houston, Texas, at its 2024 show, which featured more than 2,200 exhibitor booths and 10,000 registered attendees feasting on the trendy delights of the late spring season. 

[RELATED: It's Time to Reinvent Bakery and Deli Departments]

Highlights of the show included the association’s What’s In Store Live experience where the latest trends from product to packaging came to life on the expo floor; inspiring words from retailers and suppliers gracing the IDDBA 2024 stage; and a keynote from IDDBA President David Haaf focused on the power of people in the industry, along with technology.

“We must be willing to engage the new norm and learnings from the pandemic, not just acknowledge a job well done but build upon those learnings to better our operations,” Haaf said. “We must be willing to reshape our workplace culture to embrace and nurture our next generation of workers, and more importantly, leadership of tomorrow.”

Constant Change

During his early morning keynote talk, Haaf first seized on the opportunity to discuss what continues to be the No. 1 word on the tip of retailer tongues: labor. Haaf told the audience that the average separations rate at retail is over 4% now, compared to an average of 3.3% across all sectors. 

“Though we are starting to see some stabilization in leveling off of turnover, it is still a big opportunity in our industry. Couple this with continued competitive labor markets, and we are going to continue facing complicated recruiting and retention of employees in our industry,” Haaf said. “In addition, a mass number of those separations involved retirement of older workers, creating real and impactful generational shifts in our leadership.”

The grocery industry has a big opportunity, however, to leverage those shifts, he said. 

“How we embrace those shifts will be a point of differentiation in our growth and success of our industry,” Haaf said. “Is your company's leadership slipping back into the mindset of ‘how we've always done it,’ or are they embracing an infinite mindset to build a stronger, innovative and inspiring organization?”

The new generations of Millennials and Gen Z grew up in a time of technological changes and uncertainty. This has given them characteristics of flexibility and resilience, noted Haaf.

“What does all this mean to our companies and our industry? Invest in HR management training to better understand younger mindsets. Extra time and attention must be spent meeting the next era of workforce where they are,” he added. “What's important to our young leaders today, in many cases, is different from what our older leaders grew up on. Clearly, communicating our company vision, job tasks and expectations is a must.”

Haaf said that part of the future strategic initiatives at IDDBA are focused on creating more leadership development resources. IDDBA's other priorities include a focus on tech trends such as AI, Internet of Things, 3D printing, electronic shelf labels, and more. 

“Our industry of dairy, deli and bakery and foodservice is a resilient one,” Haaf said. “We will continue to meet our members and our industry where they are. We will rise up and stand in the future together.”

[RELATED: Keeping Dairy In Demand]

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Change Is Constant

In addition to Haaf's keynote, IDDBA 2024 featured speakers such as celebrity entrepreneurs Jose Andres, Joanna Gaines, Chip Gaines, and others. But the most insightful speakers included those who spoke as part of a panel moderated by 210 Analytics President Anne-Marie Roerink on the ever-changing dynamics in food retailing. The session featured Jewel Hunt, GVP of fresh merchandising at Albertsons Cos.; Josh Bickford, president of Clyde's Donuts; Jody Barrick, SVP entrepreneurship and sales at UNFI; and David Searle, VP of sales at Land O'Lakes.

The panel discussed the six guiding trends at IDDBA this year, including the influence of food not only the body but also on the mind and spirit; sustainability and sourcing; technology; youth and staying young at heart; community and convenience; and culinary diversity.

Roerink kicked off the session by discussing IDDBA's six guiding trends "through the eyes of the consumer," with research highlighting the generational differences driving grocery shopping trips today.

"What we're seeing is that there's massive differences comparing low-income to high-income, different regions, different ethnicity, but more than anything, massive generational gaps that we're seeing out in the marketplace," Roerink said. "Every single one of the questions that we had in the survey, we saw vastly different attitudes and behaviors between the Gen Z's, the Millennials, the Gen Xers, and the Boomers. And that means as we think through our store, the fact that for 30 years we have been catering to that big boomer generation, we have to figure out how do we continue to safeguard their spending but also start turning our eye toward the future."

She said Gen Z, Millennials and even Gen X are being highly influenced by social media when it comes to what food and beverages they buy. 

"In 2019 you saw a very high share of food and beverage dollars coming out of the supermarket channel. Still the case today, but if you look at where younger generations over-index, it tends to be for mass supercenter, club and online," Roerink said. "That means whenever we have these young folks in our stores, we better optimize that trip and get every planned and unplanned purchase in those parts."

Roerink asked Jewel Hunt of Albertsons how retailers should be balancing the demands on the deli specifically, from keeping the hot sellers in stock while at the same time offering LTOs that could drive incremental sales.

"I think you need to listen to the voice of the customer," Hunt said. "Our customers love the things that are comfort foods and they come back for those time and time again, whether it's their favorite fried chicken, baked chicken and all the accompaniments that go along with it, that's the easy part. They also like to be inspired with some culinary inspiration around flavors and experiment a little bit for some new fun flavors. That would be anything from Pan-Asian to things from the Latin area, and they like to experiment and spice it up a little bit along with those comfort foods they purchase all the time."

Josh Bickford of Clyde's Donuts added: "The data really shows that after years of SKU consolidation, people are really desperate for new flavors and new innovation. If you look at these wonderful mega trends as well, globally inspired things like spiced chai and other items are really important to the consumer right now. But the nostalgic or traditional items always need to be there also."

[RELATED: Progressive Grocer’s 91st State-of-Industry Report]

The panel also discussed how promotions, social media and wellness trends are influencing consumer behavior and sales. 

"The consumer is definitely reading labels. They're looking for that cleaner, simpler ingredient statement," Hunt said. "And in my departments in both bakery and deli, they are being very conscious of what's there, but they're also giving themselves permission to indulge in bakery when they're looking for that special treat. When I think about how they are shopping and their behavior, they are really looking for a few things. They're looking for freshness, quality, convenience, and value. If you can deliver on all those for what they need at that point and they're making that decision, you really come through with a winning solution. At the same time. They like to experiment, taste really drives them, and if it tastes great, they'll be back."

Roerink cited data showing that retailers have an opportunity in the deli they might not be leveraging.

"The desire for convenience that we saw rise from 2023 to 2024 is going to rise further once the economy starts to improve a little bit more," Roerink said. "The deli is already emerging as one of the strongest departments across the store. Many departments are still suffering, but it's different for deli prepared. The overall department is up almost 4% in units and sales powerhouses include entrees, prepared meats, appetizers. These are all growing significantly as people are eating out a little bit less."

Top Trends to Watch

Meanwhile on the IDDBA show floor, attendees could watch a traditional Japanese bluefin tuna carving, dance with the Pillsbury dough boy, or sample traditional Spanish tapas. But here's the top deli-bakery-dairy product trends I saw:

Muhammara: This spicy Syrian dip made of walnuts, red bell peppers, pomegranate, molasses and breadcrumbs was everywhere, and poised to be the next pesto or hummus (Ronda's Fine Foods). 

Another New Spread: Avocrema has innovated a new spread that is a combination of avocado and sour cream with 80% less fat and cholesterol.

Boards: Charcuterie boards abounded, but what's the next trend in boards? Not butter boards, those are so very 2022. How about a banh mi board featuring Asian style cured meats and fresh herbs and vegetables? Or a pretzel board; assorted meats and veg on a giant pretzel?

Pizza Cheese: Saputo's Kaamps Estate label has a new Gouda that tastes exactly like pizza.

Snackle Box 2.0: The snackle box (charcuterie boards made portable in a tackle box) has been downsized. Suppliers showed off snackle boxes filled with protein, fruit and veg designed to feed one person.

Crookie: No, that's not a typo. Flakey golden and buttery croissants stuffed with chocolate chip cookie dough and topped with more dough, and baked until chewy and fudgy, is the next TikTok viral product bakery customers will be asking for.

Pumpkin Spice 365: Shoppers are clamoring for more pumpkin spice all year long. Retailers and manufacturers should give them more. Gardner Pie Company had a delicious looking Pumpkin Spice Latte Pie.

Multiculturals: How multicultural is your deli? Exhibitors at IDDBA had Persian rice next to the fried chicken; tonkatsu sandwiches next to the Italian subs; gochujang soup (Ivar's) next to the chicken noodle; and Korean tacos next to the mac and cheese.  

And the Next Bowl Trend Is ...: The cottage cheese bowl. Cottage cheese bowls topped with savory things like chickpeas, cucumbers and tomatoes, and cottage cheese bowls topped with sweet things like berries, honey and granola, were all over IDDBA.

Tater Tots: Tater Kegs had the bright idea to stuff tater tots (popularity of tater tots is up drastically since 2022).

Grab and Go: Convenience is back (was it really ever gone?). Exhibitors showed off meatballs on the go (Mama's Creations) and hard boiled eggs (Sauder's Eggs) that come in flavors such as beet and buffalo.

Pickle Nation: Pickle dip, fried pickle dip (Knott's), pickled vegetables (Poshi), portable pickles, Monterey jack cheese with pickles (Sunrise Creamery) — consumers (and suppliers) are obsessed with the briny cuke.

Ice Cream That Looks and Crunches Like Fried Chicken: Just go here.

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