NEW YORK -- Self-described "supermarket guru" Phil Lempert dubbed 2017 "the most important year ever in grocery" in his annual trend report webcast Dec. 13. That set the tone of a trend report in which he described an industry evolving at “incredible speed” and commanding a new level of attention unheard of in days gone by.
“Grocery is now 'cool' and is attracting talent from the best schools and companies that would have not even thought about grocery or food a few years ago,” Lempert said, according to a Winsight Grocery Business report.
Pointing to retailers such as Hy-Vee, he said grocers “have created new environments, both physically and intellectually.” Lempert also tipped his hat to innovative CPG companies that are creating “incubators that attract start-ups to help their brands understand how to become relevant to a new kind of consumer and offer innovations they’ve never dreamed about.”
“These are very poignant times in the food world,” Lempert said as he unveiled his 10 grocery trends for 2018 ...
Trend 1: Mindfulness
“The new 2018 food world definition of mindfulness, which I will describe as simply ‘the quality or state of being conscious or aware,' is a huge step forward for the food industry and for consumers,” Lempert said. Mindfulness reflects a new consumer attitude mostly led by millennials, to understand everything they can about a particular food or beverage, and then supporting the company, whether it be a brand or retailer, by aligning with their values, and supporting them with their purchases, he said.
Trend 2: Tactile
“If I had to point to one trend that I believe will have the biggest impact on our industry, it is tactile--the sense of touch," Lempert said. "Think about just how food is so tactile. ... Multisensory is the new secret weapon for food both in products, their packaging and in-store."
Trend 3: Farming
"It all starts with agriculture, where our food comes from. And that is about to change dramatically," Lempert said. "By 2050, the world’s population will reach 9.6 billion, with 65% of us living in urban areas. Our land, water, soil and environment are all under siege, and the USDA says that climate change is going to create challenges for us all." Watch for things such as vertical indoor farming to take root in the new year, he said.
Trends 4 & 5: Neuronutrition and biohacking
“The food we eat is the No. 1 cause of preventable death and disease in the United States," Lempert said, citing a recent report that concluded that by the time today's kids are 35 years old, half of them will be obese. "It is time to get our priorities straight." Watch for cutting-edge insights such as neuronutrition and biohacking to become mainstream, giving consumers the personal information they need to make smarter food choices, he said.
Trend 6: "Technofoodology"
“'Technofoodology' and artificial intelligence are the best things to ever happen to a grocery store," Lempert said, referring to home technology such as Alexa, Google Home, Sonos and other home-based assistants that "are ushering in a new way to buy our foods. We can easily replenish our foods by asking Alexa to reorder from Amazon." He also pointed to convenience-store chain Sheetz's recent announcement that its made-to-order foods can now be ordered on Alexa from all its 564 c-stores.
Trend 7: Advertising
Watch for significant changes to grocery advertising as the industry latches onto consumers' desire to "tell the truth, especially about nutrition," Lempert said. "Today, people want a connection with the foods they eat, they want to know where foods come from; and if we can use advertising to empower them to eat healthier, we have achieved success."
Trend 8: Security
"Personal security will be top of mind in 2018," Lempert said. "The American Psychological Association’s 10th annual survey finds that over one-third of Americans feel nervous or anxious and a similar amount feel anger or irritability. And we seem to be nervous about a lot. Retailers should add visible security in-store and in parking areas. People will be avoiding large groups and events, so retailers will bring events in-store, smaller ones and more often."
Trend 9: Politics and food
Politics will play a role in the future of food, Lempert said, but not in the sense of Republicans vs. Democrats. "The USDA is one of the most powerful and largest government agencies and has not yet been fully staffed," he said. Food Policy Action, a collaboration of national food policy leaders, "has created a score card that clearly depicts that food has now become a bipartisan issue as many existing regulations are being dismantled. To date, there have only been six bills voted on to score, and all the votes have been along strict party lines."
Trend 10: Future supermarkets
2017 was "a game-changing year" for the grocery industry, setting a foundation for "an entirely new way to look at supermarkets," Lempert said. “In 1989, I sat down with Herbert Hofer, a European artist, and shared my vision for what I hoped the supermarket in the year 2000 would be: No aisles, no gondolas, lots of fresh foods, lots of excitement, no check stands, products grouped by meal occasions. The top line was a food experience second to none. We haven’t gotten there yet, but the stores that are being built today are closer to this vision than ever.
“It’s time we rethink the four-walled structure, much like Apple has done for their new headquarters. The grocery industry should wake up each morning thinking about how we can make the shopping experience better. It’s time to build stores that are truly energy efficient, with solar glass blocks and solar roofing that not only reduce energy but creates additional energy that could power an entire store."