With the proliferation of “all natural” claims across the product universe, one would think that this is a key product attribute consumers care about or are seeking. But is it?
With the proliferation of organic and natural foods and beverages in the mainstream, their meaning has shifted. With the heightened interest in organics in the past few years, natural is experiencing renewed significance.
Consumers are seeking an ideal of natural that would mean that the food and beverages they buy are healthy, whole, real and minimally processed. Natural is understood as what happens to the food after it is grown, specifically regarding the reduction of processing steps. Consumers more strongly associate “no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives” with natural, illustrating the solid connection between natural and production and processing.
The proliferation of “all natural” claims across the product universe leads one to believe that this is a key product attribute that consumers are seeking today. Maybe, and maybe not. It could be something that you can’t see by looking at the product that is actually driving consumers’ decisions to buy. It could be something implied by the product, such as “minimally processed.” Similarly, one might think that “Harissa” is the next “Sriracha” and that it is a key attribute for innovation, but again perhaps something implicit like “flavor exploration” carries more weight in driving your category’s growth. Not all attributes, obvious or implied, are equally important in all categories, so a category-specific lens is critical for accurate trends analysis.
Once you know which attributes are correlated with volumetric growth in their respective categories, it’s vital to know why. A cultural explanation that takes consumer need spaces into account allows one to innovate and market with greater confidence. Also, understanding which attributes bundle together in certain consumer benefit spaces can inform portfolio strategy and M&A activities with sophisticated and culturally sensitive market analytics.
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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.