People are shifting their views on what’s important when they buy food, and it’s not just Millennials, inner-city elites or yummy mummies.
Consultancy Deloitte, after surveying 5000 American consumers, concluded that “…each and every consumer targeted by food manufacturers and retailers has changed in a fundamental and impactful way”.
Consumers have changed, because the traditional measures on which they based food-buying decisions - price, taste, convenience - are now being weighed against other ideas about what signifies value.
Deloitte lists some of those “evolving value drivers” as health, safety, social impact, experience and transparency.
“It’s important to know that the shift towards Evolving drivers and a broader purchase consideration set is not driven by certain region, age or income groups,” Deloitte observed in its report, 'Capitalizing On The Shifting Consumer Food Value Equation'.
“It is pervasive across region, age and income.”
That will be interesting news to the bodies that funded the study, the US Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA); and to their counterparts in Australia, where the trends picked up by Deloitte are as relevant.
What’s driving these changes in buying behaviour is also relevant to farmers.
As consumer tastes change, where they shop changes. The FMI and GMI commissioned the Deloitte report because they wanted to understand why growth in the US food and beverage industry has stalled since 2012.
Closer analysis showed that not all parts of the sector had stalled.
From 2009-13, the 25 largest US food and beverage manufacturers had growth of one per cent, well behind the baseline 2.3 pc set by inflation and population growth. But in the same period, smaller brands grew 4.9pc, and private brands 4pc.
“The implication is that the top 25 branded food manufacturers lost 3.5 percent market share during that four-year span,” Deloitte’s authors noted.
Consumers are getting new information through new media channels - “social networks, self-proclaimed experts, and web-based media”, which, the report said, is “a departure from when manufacturers could significantly influence consumer preferences through mass marketing”.
As big manufacturers lose control of the conversation, they lose the trust of consumers. That’s especially true of young people: 43 pc of US Millennials don’t trust big food manufacturers, compared to 18 pc of non-Millennials.
Deloitte summed up its findings with a clear warning: “Given the ongoing nature and trajectory of consumers’ evolution, it’s eminently clear that for retailers and manufacturers seeking growth, doing nothing is simply not an option.”