High quality tops consumer shopping list, say researchers

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

The market research organization The Hartman Group has released a report on emerging trends for the year ahead, with perception of high quality topping its predictions, despite economic uncertainty.

The report, entitled Contemporary Food Trends: Emergent Themes in Products, Retailers and Restaurants,​ said that as consumers are forced to make difficult economic decisions, food is less likely to be impacted than other sectors, such as travel or entertainment.

It said: “Without question, we believe the more general consumer trend away from ‘better for you’ packaged foods toward foods perceived to be of higher quality will be the single biggest trend driving product purchase behavior in the years to come.”

People behind the food

In terms of marketing products according to this trend, the report predicted that consumers will become more interested in foods that seem to be less mass-produced, those that include a narrative about craft values and traditions, and those that use fewer, higher quality ingredients.

“We are witnessing a gradual shift such that the communities, families and people behind the food are increasingly as important as the food itself when it comes to healthy, high-quality eating experiences,”​ it said.

The report concluded that consumers will continue to focus on fresh, local, quality products even if they are feeling the economic pinch. “Despite the prevailing economic uncertainty…there is little reason to believe these three trends are at odds with any renewed consumer interest in ‘value’,” ​it said.

As for consumer behavior, it predicted that consumers will move towards a celebration of food, healthy eating, and better awareness of overall eating for immunity and digestive health, rather than detoxifying diets and vitamin supplements.

Private label promise

In particular, The Hartman Group predicts permanent growth for private label products, and cites its own internal research, which showed that just nine percent of Americans believe branded products to be superior to private label products. Its research also showed that 60 percent of US consumers believe private label products are made in the same facilities as branded ones.

“While consumer’s tastes and preferences are generally evolving in the direction of high quality, we do not expect such evolution to be derailed by the economic tumult,” ​it said.

However, there were some areas that it noted had been affected by lower consumer spending: People are dining out less, it said, and therefore it is likely that there will be more interest in prepared foods; and consumers are swapping from more expensive to less expensive retailers, although it added: “Our initial suspicion is that such shifts will likely not be permanent.”

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