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Meeting the changing needs of consumers

From new definitions of “health” to snacking, retailers look for ways to cope with blurring categories

As consumers’ notions of health and wellness evolve, so do their purchasing habits.

For instance, consumers are looking for certain attributes (natural, clean label, sourced in the U.S. are the top three) but they often aren’t willing to pay more for these attributes. Shoppers are a bit more likely to pay more for the local attribute than the other two, said Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation & insight for Mintel, at a session Monday at the NGA Show in Las Vegas.

Mintel also looked at healthy claims and how those impacted purchase intent. Of four categories — organic, GMO-free, all-natural and additive/preservative-free—only the latter was a claim that impacted purchase intent, meaning consumers are both looking to buy and will buy products that have that claim.

Dornblaser said the clean label movement of health and wellness was driven by factory fear and consumers’ mistrust in companies. Seventy-one percent of consumers believe “there are probably more harmful or excess ingredients in foods than manufacturers are telling us.”

Fifty-nine percent of consumers agree that the fewer the ingredients, the healthier an item is; and 59% of U.S. shoppers typically look for natural claims; 21% look for organic claims on the package when buying a food product; and 39% of U.S. consumers say they purchase GMO-free foods.

Along with health, snacking is a trend that keeps popping to the forefront as an area of opportunity for retailers. But what do consumers view as a snack? And where exactly are they looking for these snack products in your stores?

There aren’t necessarily easy answers to those questions, according to Dornblaser. “It’s not always clear what category a product belongs to.”

Take Campbell Soup’s V8 Fusion Energy Drink, for example. The industry side says this is an energy drink product. But consumers say it’s a juice drink. Another example is Starbucks Refreshers, which industry says is coffee versus consumers who say it’s an energy drink.

So how do retailers meet consumer needs when categories are blurring? “Consumers want products that fulfill a need, and don’t care about the categories,” Dornblaser said.

Mintel found that impulse and flavor drive snacking and not the category, i.e., “I’m in the mood for a particular flavor,” or “I’m looking for a convenient option.”

The bad news for retailers, Dornblaser said, was how to benchmark your success with blurring categories and determine the correct location for those products in your store.  The good news: Many products can serve multiple needs and there is room in the market for all types of products.

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