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Hartman Group Looks Back at This Year's Food Trends

BELLEVUE, Wash. -- The Hartman Group acknowledges that when it comes to food, 2012 may be remembered most for the demise of Hostess Brands Inc. and its iconic snack foods. But the year did bring about several other foods trends.

In its Food Culture 2012 Year in Review newsletter, the firm highlighted 12 of its "favorite concepts."

According to The Hartman Group, this year saw a "tectonic shift in food culture" from a cooking culture -- where everyone sat together for a home-cooked meal -- to an eating culture. "Everyone is a participant in a new culture of cooking and eating and drinking. So, now the consumer lens has changed. We have become a culture where engaging in eating and drinking has become intentional," the firm said. Intentional eating and drinking behavior is active involvement in foods and beverages; they are part of everyday life, a definition of who we are."

Consumers also made their meals part of the conversation this year. Whether with Facebook posts or through websites like Yelp, eating has become a public affair and consumers are haring their food experiences.

In addition, how we eat as a culture is also changing, according to The Hartman Group. "Eating alone is fast becoming the new normal; it's as normal as eating together," it said. "Astute markets will want to shelve the image of a family gathered around a dinner table right next to other irrelevant relics of the past like dusty encyclopedias and cassette tapes."

The "Great American Snackscape" has also changed, according to the firm. In data mined from The Hartman Group's Eating Occasions Database, the number of all eating occasions that are snacking occasions has increased to 52 percent in 2012 from 49 percent in 2010. The numbers also show that consumers are eating an average of 2.35 snacks per day. In addition, consumers increasingly believe that eating smaller meals more frequently is healthier and that snacking bridges gaps between meals due to long work and commute times.

The retail landscape is changing as well as shoppers’ orientation to food retail shifted from admiration to skepticism while sources of quality evaluation has moved from "mom's kitchen" to retail -- creating a relevancy gap between what consumers expect food retailers to sell and what they want them to sell.

Other notable trends pinpointed by The Hartman Group are:

  • The Hispanic marketing opportunity: Millennials
  • Fresh hasn't gone stale
  • Thrill of discovery, allure of the bargain
  • The constant consumer
  • Reasons for purchasing organics extends beyond nutritional value
  • The online grocery shopping opportunity
  • The super-sized sugary drink ban debate
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