EXPERTS: ORGANICS WILL SURGE IN POPULARITY

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- Higher quality Center Store products, such as upscale salts, mustards, flavored olives and mayonnaises, will see a surge in popularity in the new millennium, according to predictions from the Associated Food Dealers of Michigan here.A non-profit organization representing the food and beverage industry nationwide, the AFDM bases its annual forecasts on the supermarket travels of

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- Higher quality Center Store products, such as upscale salts, mustards, flavored olives and mayonnaises, will see a surge in popularity in the new millennium, according to predictions from the Associated Food Dealers of Michigan here.

A non-profit organization representing the food and beverage industry nationwide, the AFDM bases its annual forecasts on the supermarket travels of Joe Sarafa, president, and from information pooled from retailers.

According to Sarafa, four things will have a great influence over the retail supermarket industry next year: on-line shopping, growing emphasis on health, marketing targeted at baby-boomlet kids and mergers and acquisitions.

"Most are guesses from what we've heard and seen and some are no-brainers," Sarafa said. "A lot of stuff that we talk about is based on interior aisle sales. It just so happens that this year's predictions have a lot to do with Center Store."

According to Sarafa, organics are another area on the upswing. "You'll see the organic section in your local grocery store increase in size as customers are looking for a simpler, pesticide-free, natural lifestyle."

He also told SN he believes spices and herbs from foreign countries will make their move next year.

"We've heard of jerk Caribbean spices before, but Brazilian and South American spices and foods are popular now. They're not only in supermarkets and houses, but they're in restaurants as well."

Another area of predicted prosperity is the nutraceuticals category, one that is bolstered by aging baby boomers "searching for the fountain of youth," said Sarafa. "Foods that claim health benefits beyond basic nutrition because they contain additional nutrients or higher levels of nutrients will gain in popularity. Government controls will become tighter on nutraceuticals and herbal remedies." Sarafa also said retailers should look for drug and vitamin companies to begin co-branding with food companies, pairing a familiar drug or vitamin with a specific food product.

Mary Dechow, spokesperson for Spartan Food Stores, Grand Rapids, Mich., agrees with Sarafa on a number of issues.

"For instance, we are already seeing growth in organics and I agree with him 100% that we'll see more of them in 2000," said Dechow. "We'll also see more fortified products and there will definitely be a growth in that category as people age.

"To go further with global spices, we can talk about global food," Dechow continued. "In the last ten years, we've seen a growth in Mexican and Latino-type products and they will slowly grow into the market. More Asian, even Mongolian flavors, are driven by restaurants and, as consumers get used to those foods, they'll want to make them home for themselves. It's a reflection of global blending."

However, Dechow also believes food safety will drive the industry. "Supermarkets will provide cooking schools and information food safety programs that will take home economics out of the high schools and make the supermarket the place to become educated on food. More and more children are cooking in their homes," she said.

"Consumers will look to get better educated and retailers who jump on that will be the leaders," added Dechow.