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A.C.T. Evolving Culture of Food & Beverage Chicago Is a Wrap!

recap of chicago act

The Hartman A.C.T. series event, Evolving Culture of Food & Beverage, wrapped up on February 5. We extend our sincere thanks to the many people who braved Chicago’s historic winter weather to attend the session and contribute to its success. Despite the bone-chilling, snowy weather outside, the vibe indoors in the cozy, eclectic environment of Catalyst Ranch was energized with great presentations and thought-provoking conversation. 

For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here’s a recap of what you missed—fear not, though; there will be a next A.C.T. We hope to see you at A.C.T. Evolving Culture of Food & Beverage in Seattle, September 2014! Keep your eyes on hartbeat for details as they become available. 

Recapping A.C.T. Evolving Culture of Food & Beverage, Chicago 2014 

“I wrote my boss and told him we should all be here,” one supermarket executive said during a break. 

Indeed. Some of The Hartman Group’s most experienced analysts converged on Chicago one snowy day this past February to impart their insights into anthropology, food culture and long-term trends—and the result was a fun day packed with consumer data and great conversations. 

We set out to teach participants how to recognize cultural cues and turn them into business opportunities. What emerged was even better than we hoped: 


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What is culture? “Not your own personal weirdness,” as one presenter put it. To be cultural, an idea must be shared, customary and revealed in a way of life. It takes time to see cultural cues and changes, which is why The Hartman Group’s ethnographers spend so much time shopping and cooking with consumers—and why anyone can learn to read cultural cues around them. Cultural cues include what’s in consumers’ cupboards, refrigerators and shopping carts, which can often reveal consumers’ aspirations and their anxieties. One presenter talked about Katie, a teenager who makes her own breakfast of Lucky Charms (because she likes them) and organic milk (her mom’s attempt to make it healthier).

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See the trend, taste the trend. Attendees visited three artifact tables packed with flavors that are part of long-term trends—and The Hartman Group’s experts explained where these products fit culturally. For example, one table included fermented foods that help with digestion, something that consumers are turning toward to boost their health.

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Consumer face time. A consumer panel we’d chosen for the diversity of its shopping and eating habits (and which included an off-duty Chicago police officer) turned to “group think” around the topic of organic—a fascinating and common occurrence that highlights how important it is to spend time with consumers one-on-one as well as in surveys and focus groups. The “power of the small ‘n’” was a theme throughout the day.


The consumer panel and other presentations encouraged lively conversations among A.C.T. participants and presenters, an enjoyable give-and-take that brought new ideas to light and created a day that was far more than a series of speakers educating food executives. 

A.C.T. events sell out quickly, so if you want information on the next A.C.T. as soon as it becomes available, contact Blaine at:


Consumer Package Goods Culture Point Of View


As leaders in the study of American food culture, The Hartman Group has been tracking how Americans shop for food since the 1990s. From one-stop shopping to multichannel shopping to online markets and click-and-collect, we continue to track consumers’ evolving perceptions, needs, habits and relationships with food retailers. New to the 2017 report is a special section on the expansion of the discount grocery channel, the emerging fresh-format channel and smaller-footprint retail formats.


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