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Prognosticators: Mini Pies Replace Cupcakes

Prognosticators: Mini Pies Replace Cupcakes

A new year brings foresight. Predict the next hot “cupcake” trend for 2011. I asked SN editors and some industry observers to do just that. In no particular order, here’s what I found.

Shopper customization will become very specified. Are you a raisin or an almond person? One Chicago entrepreneur allows consumers to create their own energy bars online. In the creation process consumers can tweak the ingredients to their liking. Add a dash of healthy options — whey protein or omega-3. Subtract the bad — sugar and fat. In building the perfect bar an ingredient label lists nutrition facts. You can name your own bar. How about Topo (my cat’s name) Tutti? Element Bars, the company that came up with the concept, will then bake the bars and ship them to you. Look for this concept to migrate in some form into food stores as retailers attempt to satisfy their customers unique tastes and nutritional needs.

About those nutrition labels, Bernice Hurst, a food industry analyst, said “the language of the label” will become more important than ever.

“Consumers want information to be clear and concise, not confusing and contradictory,” she said.

Food retailers can help with interpretation. Giant Eagle and others conduct label reading tours. Look for the industry to gear up for nutrition labels on meat and poultry, mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture by 2012. The label will include the number of calories in each product, grams of total fat and saturated fat.

SN’s Fresh Market reporter Roseanne Harper said in-store cooking demos, conducted by a guest-celebrity chef or a local restaurateur, will be in demand as will food education combined with the use of technology to inspire cooks at home. And, the cook at home is likely to be a male as the economy has forced a role reversal — the man of the house has switched from being the bread winner to the bread buyer, according to a report from The Food Channel. Those gadget-loving guys have been influenced by macho chefs on TV cooking shows where competition is as fierce as sporting events.

Watch your almond milk fly off the shelf. “It’s big,” said Julie Greene, director of Healthy Living at Hannaford Bros. “Rather than soy, almond milk is for those who can’t tolerate the lactose in milk or who are eating a vegan diet.” For those concerned about hydration, coconut water is a hot item, she added.

Pies will replace those hot-selling cupcakes, according to The Food Channel. But these pies will be of the mini variety in sweet and savory flavors.

Of all the trends talked about for next year, 2011 is likely to be the year of mobile technology, and food retailers will be right in the middle of it.

“Reality browsing, QR code readers, price comparison apps, electronic coupons, Facebook, and other group apps and related innovations are changing the way shoppers interact with the retail environment,” said James Tenser of VSN Strategies.

These are just a few ideas for the future present, for retailers who want to stay ahead of the curve. My catch phrase for 2011 is shopper engagement.