I subscribe to an eNewsletter from the Hartman Group in Bellevue, Wa.
They conduct consumer research and write about the trends for the food industry that provide opportunity. I find many of their issues thought-provoking. They are certainly great conversation topics.
The latest issue just arrived and the theme was their top 20 list of food trends over the past 20 years. It’s divided into two lists of 10 each. The first are the “sweet” or positive trends. It highlights the fresh trend in food and eating local. These ideas make all of us feel good – you betcha — nothing to be against here.
For me, it is the second list of 10, the “sour” list, that is more provocative and worth further discussion. Here are my favorites with a comment or two:
- My Plate, Food Pyramid Government Guidelines. This trend suggests that people eat scientifically or by government dictates. According to Hartman, this is not the case. However, I want to point out that some guidelines aren’t as politicized as these and can be helpful, such as the Dash Diet which is on government web sites and shows people how to reduce high blood pressure.
- 100 Calorie Packaged Snacks. When this came out, I couldn’t believe that consumers weren’t smart enough to figure out that a big box divvied out into smaller portions at home was more economical and environmentally conscious. Turns out research concludes the same. One for the consumer team!
- The Blame Game. We’d like to believe that the easy answer to the root for our national obesity epidemic is food manufacturers. However, consumers still think they are smart enough to choose the best food for themselves. If only that were true. Could the jury still be out?
- Gluten Free. While it’s healthy and important for some people to eat this way, it’s argued that this should not be thought of as a trend for the vast majority of consumers, and that in years to come, we’ll think of it as a fad diet, like low-carb.
- Fat-Free. Research has been suggesting that maybe it’s not such a good idea. After all, we need fat in our diet. Hooray for natural sources of fat, like avocados and nuts.
- Dining Together Down. Grazing Up.The last point that this list and other newsletters have highlighted is the marketing of the food industry to the fabled stay-at-home housewife. The new American family is more like Modern Family on TV than The Cleavers of the 1960’s. From eating meals together to what makes a family, it’s all changed in the last 20 years. This gives us a lot to think about as a society and as families. Some good ideas that have become reality, like the definition of what makes a family. Then, there are the not- so- great ideas, like the death of the dinner hour or communal meals in general.
Grazing all day has taken the place of dining together. And, when we do dine, over 40% of us do so alone and with a mobile device of some sort. But here’s the deal – we get to choose what works for us and what doesn’t. Like some of the ideas above reveal, as consumers we don’t have to buy into every new food concept that comes along. We can, in fact, reject the fads, and even trends, that don’t seem right to us. Better yet, we can embrace the ones that make sense. Sometimes that means change and sometimes that means holding on to what works for you, your family, your community.
Share the sweet trends you’ve embraced and the sour ones you’ve deep-sixed with us. Better yet, share them with your friends and start a conversation of your own.
Remember, if I can do it, you can, too!