Good news! The economy has driven Americans back home to the dinner table.
According to a recent consumer survey conducted by Allrecipes.com, 80% of 1,400 respondents said they plan to cook at home more in 2009 to help manage food budgets.
Herein lies an opportunity for supermarkets to be the primary source of food at the table. Responding to shoppers' taste preferences, moods and views will go a long way in getting seated at the table.
Culling from the trend lists and checking the titles of the top-selling cookbooks, I've put together a few food themes to keep top of mind. Most aren't new themes, but expect them to be motivators when shoppers come to your stores.
- Spam makes a comeback
Not that this meat protein — which can elicit a grimace, and memories of the Great Depression out of which it rose — ever left us. But sales are spiking in bad times. Budget-conscious consumers are looking for economical, low-priced proteins. Promote lean, healthier cuts of meat and roll out the rice and beans.
- How does your garden grow?
More consumers may be asking their neighbors this question as the thirst for locally grown foods, often at a premium price, sparks renewed interest in backyard gardens. Remember those Victory gardens of a bygone era when times were very tough. Roll out the Burpee seed packs and place them in the spring seasonal or fresh produce aisles.
- Color my world
The concept of eating well to stay healthy bodes well for greater consumption of fruits and veggies. The more color on the plate, the better for you. Expect to see kids' vegetable/fruit side dishes and superfruits like acai and mangosteen, and micro veggies and herbs to enhance flavors, reports the National Restaurant Association in its 2009 What's Hot chef survey. Educate customers through signage, pamphlets, samplings and recipes on the benefits of fruits and veggies.
- Embrace diversity
The global world has brought diversity to the food table, and consumers can't seem to get enough of exotic tastes and flavors. Internationally infused tastes figure prominently in McCormick's 2009 flavor forecast. How about these combos: peppercorn melange and sake, garam masal (spice from India) and pepitas (popular Latin American seed), smoked paprika and agave nectar. As Sheila Lukins, the food editor of Parade magazine and cookbook author, said on a recent NPR broadcast, “America is no longer white bread.” Feature foods from around the world or region of the country each month.
- Health concerns
The need to stay healthy will be paramount. Foods that possibly prevent and treat diseases — functional foods — will move off shelves. Look for portion control to play a role at the table for health rather than cost-cutting reasons. Sponsor health fairs and tout the “good for you” mantra.
- Keep it ethical
De-luged by headlines about Wall Street's woes, Ponzi schemes and corrupt government officials, Americans will buy from companies leading in fair trade, environmental conservation and helping the less fortunate of the world. Do the same through community outreach and helping those in need.
Want to read the heartbeat of a nation? Look to the table in 2009.