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Exclusive: Tapping Premium Trends to Drive Growth

SEATTLE — Today’s consumer seeks upgraded experiences in everyday occasions, driving growth of the small, yet important premium segment, said Laurie Demeritt, chief executive officer of the Hartman Group. “Premium currently represents 9% of the overall food and beverage marketplace, and we believe … within the next decade that will probably double,” Ms. Demeritt said. “And the question is, who are the winners, and who are the ones who will be left by the wayside?” That was the topic of insightful discussion during the Hartman Group’s “Driving Growth 2017” symposium on Sept. 27 at the Edgewater Hotel in Seattle, where senior leaders and analysts identified opportunities for packaged food firms to keep pace with consumers’ evolving needs.


How Much Protein Do We Need?

The Hartman Group, a consumer research firm that has been conducting a study of American food culture over the past 25 years and counting, has found that nearly 60 percent of Americans are now actively trying to increase their protein intake. Many are avoiding sugar and simple carbohydrates and turning to protein-rich foods, snacks and supplements. The firm calls protein “the new low-fat” or “the new low-carb,” even “the new everything when it comes to diet and energy.”

“Soccer moms feel they can’t be anywhere without protein,” says Melissa Abbott, the firm’s vice president for culinary insights. “Really it’s that we’ve been eating so many highly processed carbs for so long. Now it’s like you try nuts, or you try an egg again, or fat even” to feel full and help you “get through the day.”

In her research, Ms. Abbott said she always seems to be finding beef jerky in gym bags and purses, and protein bars in laptop bags or glove compartments. Many consumers, she notes, say they are afraid that without enough protein they will “crash,” similar to the fear of crashing, or “bonking,” among those who are elite athletes. But most of us are getting more than enough protein. And few seem to be aware that there may be long-term risks of consuming too much protein, including a potential increased risk of kidney damage. 


Organic Food is Pricier, But Shoppers Crave It

With consumers' desire for more nutritious, less chemically-laden food comes a willingness to pay more. Some 44% of shoppers would pay an additional 20% or more for organic fresh vegetables, and 37% are willing to hand over that much more cash for organic poultry, found a study by the Hartman Group, a food and beverage research firm in Bellevue, Wash. No wonder large food companies are diversifying their portfolios to include organic products. "Finally, the conventional food and beverage industry has woken up and said, 'Why, this isn’t niche anymore . It’s eating into my share,' " Hartman Group senior vice president Shelley Balanko said.

Campbell Soup has the Plum Organics baby food line and Bolthouse Farms salad dressings and juices. Coca-Cola has organic Honest Tea. Hormel's lineup includes organic meats label Applegate Farms. General Mills' organic-only portfolio has grown more than 350% over the past five years. Natural and organic sales were $1 billion this year, growing at a double-digit clip since 2000 when the Minneapolis-based cereal maker first ventured into organic with the purchase of Small Planet Foods, which produces a variety of organic foods, from ketchup to granola bars. In 2014, General Mills acquired Annie's, which features fruit snacks, cereal, cookies and more.



The A.C.T. Experience

Click on this link to go to the event page: A.C.T. SEATTLE

Finding inspiration for “what to make to eat?” can be a real challenge for many of America’s households

Cooking today for a family must accommodate everyone’s schedule and food preferences ranging from avoidances to culinary variety and healthfulness.


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