Consumers are sending strong signals to the food industry. They want:

  • Better-for-you foods and beverages that contribute to a sense of well-being and healthfulness.
  • More flavorful and more engaging foods and beverages.
  • Foods and beverages which are fresher or have “fresh-like” attributes.

As producers of a raw product, you can make small changes to enhance the product you produce. But, just as important, you can influence your cooperatives and processors to respond to these trends also. It takes a combined effort by all members of the food-value chain to meet consumer needs and grow market share.

To track consumer trends, be mindful of these key forces:

  • Demographics. It’s important to track the consumer behavior of “baby boomers” — those individuals born between 1946 and 1964. They represent about 27.5 percent of the population, or 78 to 82 million people. As a group, “baby boomers” are very concerned about their health and ability to maintain an active lifestyle. They take a proactive approach to these concerns through their food purchases.
  • Ethnicity.  Today, approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population is of Hispanic origin. By 2010, that proportion will be 15 percent. Many food companies have developed, or are developing, products specifically targeted to the Hispanic consumer.
  • Income. During the past 30 years, the percentage of households in the $70,000-plus category (in constant 1998 dollars) has increased from 9 percent to 24 percent. And households with higher incomes spend a disproportionately high percentage of their income on food prepared away from home. It is expected that consumer spending in restaurants and other away-from-home venues will surpass spending for food in grocery stores by the year 2010.

The following chart lists several sources that you can use to help track consumer trends.



Laura MacPhail, principal with the Hale Group, Ltd. Boston, Mass.