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Driving Growth 2017, Seattle Summit Recap: 4 Key Takeaways

Laurie Demeritt Seattle ACT 2017On September 27, 2017, food and beverage industry professionals from across the U.S. gathered on Seattle’s scenic waterfront at the iconic Edgewater Hotel for The Hartman Group’s fall edition of its A.C.T. (Anthropology. Culture. Trends.) insights and strategy symposium.

“Where’s the growth? What should I do if the sales of the category I compete in are flat or falling?” Hartman Group CEO Laurie Demeritt opened the event with questions like these to set the tone for the day’s agenda centered on the theme of finding pathways to growth.

“We’re here today because you all have a keen interest in learning what to do about chasing that elusive growth for your products and brands, ways to identify those pockets of opportunities,” said Demeritt during her keynote remarks. “There are three possible pathways: you can renovate, innovate or acquire. Today we will be talking about what are the things that are going to be most resonant and appealing with consumers that will help you make decisions about which of these pathways to growth to take.”

The symposium delved into the key pillars of premium benefits that consumers are seeking and that are driving growth opportunities in the marketplace today. These growth drivers all ladder up to fulfilling on consumers’ increasingly fragmented and specialized needs that cohere around The Hartman Group’s four main premium benefits pillars:

  • Customized health and wellness
  • Nutrient density
  • Performance (optimization)
  • Pleasure

Finding pathways to growth is a big issue, and our experienced analysts and consultants covered the topic with Hartman’s proprietary analysis, consumer insights and case studies to illuminate possibilities. One attendee might have summed up the day’s experience best: “I love the way you guys aggregate trends and put them into frameworks (4 pillars). I also like the bias toward core consumer. You are always ahead of the curve.”

Premium is not only a big opportunity — about one-third of consumers have purchased premium products in the past month, according to Demeritt — but as consumers change the way they eat and change the way they engage with food, there is a tremendous upside to leveraging premium benefits as the pathway to increase household penetration and frequency of purchase.

Here are the key takeaways from the day’s four presentations.

CUSTOMIZED HEALTH AND WELLNESS is a tremendous opportunity space.

The future of condition management and prevention will need to be evermore precise as consumers see themselves as unique individuals requiring personalized solutions. Therefore, opportunities abound in targeting niche benefit spaces rather than searching for one or two mass needs to satisfy.

Don’t ignore a base level, pleasure is required for all food and beverage.

Pleasure combines our cultural orientation and biological needs into long-term satisfaction over a short-term fix. Pleasure is about moving away from feeling bad about pleasure and towards creating high-quality food experiences. Pleasure is still indulgent, but generally speaking, it’s an indulgence consumers walk away from saying “that was worth it” instead of “I wish I hadn’t” (which is what pleasure may have represented in the past).

PERFORMANCE is an emerging space, following on the heels of health and wellness and leveraging nutrient density.

Consumers are seeking targeted benefits (e.g., energy and focus and recalibration) from the foods they eat and the beverages they drink in a holistic approach (e.g., mind, movement and sleep) to be their very best. And they select particular products because of the ingredients in them and the benefits/value associated with the particular ingredients to address the specific area they are targeting to help raise their game.

NUTRIENT DENSITY is the new greens fee for brands that wish to position themselves as relevant to consumers’ contemporary health and wellness aspirations.

“What is healthy food?” The answer to this question has evolved from looking at the quantities of specific nutrients (good and bad) to evaluating food for its literal and symbolic freshness, all in the pursuit of nutrient density — getting the most from the inherent goodness of food. In addition to being the biggest pillar for premium occasions, it has cultural importance in our understanding of what is good, healthy and distinctive about food. It has caused us to:

  • embrace personally assessed, intuitive and traditional foods, while challenging the advice of traditional, institutional authorities.
  • reevaluate and elevate our understanding of common health benefits, such as energy and satiety.
  • become more intimately aware of the entire life cycle of our food and reexamine its personal and systemic impacts.

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Consumer Demographics Food & Beverage Occasions Consumer Package Goods Culture Health & Wellness Organic/Natural Trends Point Of View Foodservice/Restaurant


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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