According to a Recent Study/Survey … End-of-2016 Edition

As part of our mission to be the go-to resource for on-the-go restaurant industry professionals, Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine offers highlights of recent research. This End-of-2016 edition features confusion on plant-based proteins, the growing demand for tahini and how the battle for “stomach share” is expected to intensify in 2017.

Confusion Causes More Meat Consumption

With more and more restaurants consulting registered dietitians (RDs) about developing nutritious menus, it is worth heeding what RDs say about the rising trend of plant-based eating among consumers. A new national survey of more than 100 RDs was conducted by The Monday Campaigns, the non-profit public health organization behind the Meatless Monday initiative.

“Registered dietitians work with consumers day in and day out and are well-informed about their needs and attitudes,” said Diana Rice, RD, The Monday Campaigns’ associate director of nutrition communications. “To help us stay abreast of the latest plant-based eating trends, consulting with registered dietitians was the clear choice.”

The survey analyzed RDs’ insights into what consumers think about protein consumption, plant-based nutrition information on social media and up-and-coming trends in plant-based eating.

Protein Confusion: On protein, the RDs revealed why they think the general public still consumes too much of it. Although data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) show that most Americans meet or exceed their daily protein needs, protein consumption remains an increasingly hot trend. Overwhelmingly, the RD respondents stated that confusion over how much protein is needed in the average diet (83 percent) as well as confusion over the quality of protein from plant-based sources (67 percent) are the primary reasons many consumers continue to eat so much meat for protein.

Social Media Credibility: Could consumers be garnering their misperceptions about protein from social media? The survey also revealed that dietitians are becoming increasingly concerned about where consumers are getting their information about plant-based eating. Over 90 percent of respondents indicated that social media is consumers’ top source of plant-based diet information, yet only 2 percent ranked the information that consumers receive about plant-based diets on social media as “mostly credible.”

Meaning of Plant-Based: Perhaps consumers need more guidance over what a plant-based diet is, precisely. While two out of three of the RDs responded that they believed consumers understood that the term “plant-based” diet referred to a diet consisting primarily of plant foods, the remaining third suggested that terms including “plant-centric” and “mostly vegetarian” would better convey this style of healthy eating. Some went on to suggest that “plant-based” is an adequate term, but nutrition professionals need to do more work educating consumers on what it means.

Fermented Foods: Rising Trend? In terms of the hottest up and coming plant-based food trends, the RDs named fermented foods as the next rising trend, though seeds and aquafaba (chickpea water) placed second and third. RDs kept it conventional with their recommendations of plant-based substitutes for meat, naming beans, lentils, nuts and tofu as their top picks over meat analogues such as chick’n strips and beefless crumbles, which were selected by only 9 percent of respondents. 

“We’re very happy to have this expert group weigh in on plant-based nutrition trends as we head into 2017,” Rice said. “We hope to use these insights to reach even more people with the benefits of Meatless Monday.”

Battle for Stomach Share 

How and where people source meals and the attributes that will win share of wallet are ever-changing, and according to The NPD Group, a leading global information company, here are five overarching trends to watch in 2017. 

The battle for share of stomach will intensify. For several years now, more than 80 percent of meals have been sourced from home; fewer than 20 percent have been sourced from foodservice, and dollars are evenly split between the two. Food manufacturers will benefit from a trend toward eating meals at home by capitalizing on consumers’ desires for fresh, authentic foods. Foodservice operators will increasingly leverage technology to conveniently get their food on the in-home table. At the intersection of this trend is the retailer, who will continue to blur the line between retail and foodservice.

Watch for the continued development of the “blended meal.” Consumers are dining at home more, and they value fresh and authentic foods, but convenience remains an important part of the equation. People don’t always source meals entirely at home or away. Look for various components of “homemade” meals to be sourced from items fully or partially prepared. Opportunity exists all along the preparation spectrum, from meal kits to restaurant delivery.

Companies will win by getting personal. Even in a mature, low-growth environment, there will be opportunities for double-digit growth. But today more than ever, the consumer is in charge. Access to information is empowering people to do things on their terms. The days of a one-size-fits-all blockbuster idea are over. Consumers will seek out foods with a variety of value-added attributes (fresh, natural, organic), positive benefits (energy, brain food, etc.) and social value (local, sustainable, transparent). Some of these opportunities may seem small by big company standards, but that is where the growth is.

The definition of meal occasions will evolve. People aren’t adding new eating occasions to their day, but how meal and between-meal occasions are composed will continue to change. Foods that offer the flexibility to compose an eating occasion to fit specific needs at a given time will grow, whether packaged goods or foodservice offerings. Consumers will make choices on price point, portion control, and portability – whatever allows them to craft a snack or full meal, spend a little or a lot, take a break or eat on the run.

Experience will make the difference. To stand out, food manufacturers, retailers, and foodservice operators must go beyond sustenance. People will seek out experiences, whether through exploring street food vendors, emerging ethnic flavors, or hands-on experiences, such as learning new food prep techniques. Connecting your product or brand to an experience people are eager to share with others can be an important differentiating factor in 2017.

“The search for white space, growth occasions, and new product opportunity will be more important than ever for food companies and foodservice operators in 2017,” said David Portalatin, vice president, food industry analyst at NPD Group and author of Eating Patterns in America. “Opportunities to grow and innovate are out there but the key to finding them in the coming year will be staying in touch with the consumer. They’re the ones in charge.”

Sushi Restaurants to Grow

The Sushi Restaurants industry is serving up a fresh round of growth over the period. The industry, which is highly fragmented and consists mainly of small, owner-operator establishments, is doing well despite the high competition it experiences from other retailers serving sushi and the range of ethnic restaurants and American food service establishments that are also in direct competition, according to IBISWorld’s Sushi Restaurants in the U.S. industry report page.

The industry has been boosted by the expanding palates of American consumers who are increasingly seeking out more diverse ethnic cuisines, especially in urban areas. Therefore, IBISWorld expects overall industry revenue to grow at an annualized rate of 3.3 percent over the five years to 2016. In 2016, as the economy grows, the industry is expected to grow 1.8 percent to $2.3 billion.

Over the five years to 2021, operating conditions are forecast to continue to improve. As consumers’ disposable incomes increase, demand for sit-down restaurants is anticipated to follow suit. In addition, seafood prices are projected to fall, allowing restaurant owners to capitalize on lower input costs, thereby widening their margins.

According to IBISWorld Industry Analyst Viraj D’Costa, “The continued increases in profit levels are forecast to entice more restaurateurs into the industry, which will increase competition.” Despite the presence of a number of small sushi chains, the industry will remain highly fragmented.

Bar & Nightclub Growth Anticipated

While revenue growth experienced some volatility over the early half of the period, primarily as a result of shaky consumer confidence, the industry is still expected to grow at an annualized rate of 1.2 percent to $25.4 billion over the five years to 2016, according to IBISWorld’s Bars & Nightclubs in the U.S. industry report. Industry revenue is expected to increase 2.9 percent in 2016 alone, as per capita alcohol consumption and disposable income pick up, allowing people to spend more of their pay at bars and nightclubs.

“Bar and nightclub operators have attempted to respond to volatile growth and increased competition by diversifying into a range of new concepts such as wine bars, cocktail lounges and brewpubs,” said IBISWorld Industry Analyst Andrew Alvarez. “As a result, the industry has become more fragmented because drinking establishments are catering to a larger range of niche markets. Many of the remaining establishments have adapted their menus and entertainment offerings to accommodate consumer tastes.

Over the five years to 2021, the industry is projected to continue facing competition from in-home alcohol consumption and nonindustry establishments that also serve alcohol, such as restaurants. In spite of these factors, the industry’s financial performance is forecast to remain relatively steady as the economy improves and consumer spending increases.

Strong Coffee Sales

Coffee sales are going strong, according to market research firm Packaged Facts. The U.S. market for packaged and ready-to-drink coffee sold at retail was estimated at $13.5 billion in 2015, up almost 10 percent. By 2020, Packaged Facts expects sales of packaged and ready-to-drink coffee in the U.S. to close in on $18 billion. 

Growth in the industry can largely be attributed to three segments – single cup coffee, cappuccino/iced coffee and refrigerated ready-to-drink coffee. At the same time, traditional coffee products such as ground coffee and instant coffee have seen declines. Ground coffee is still the largest contributing segment to the category, although single-cup has been quickly closing the gap.

Packaged Facts notes that retail dollar sales continue to grow largely because of the category’s continued reinvention, whether from k-cups or ready-to-drink varieties or cold brew. The rising popularity of single-cup coffee options, as well as iced coffee and cappuccino, points back to an evolving population of coffee drinkers.

“The coffeehouse revolution created a new generation of consumers who appreciate premium and specialty coffee,” said David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “Retailers see the generational shift in the coffee category playing out on supermarket shelves.”

Many older and more traditional consumers are still purchasing ground coffee in cans. Another large consumer segment came of age being exposed to specialty coffee, and that group views canned coffee as outdated and unpalatable. The retailer’s consumer base is now highly polarized.

Some retailers have tried to shift their assortment to address the new coffee consumer by making major cuts in canned coffee, and found that they had alienated an important shopper segment. Retailers increasingly adapt to the changing market landscape by aiming for a “total coffee” section that is relevant to multiple generations of coffee users. Retail specialists note that supermarkets should recognize that the overall coffee category is on a solid growth trend, with some segments of excellent growth. Retailers can consider cutting back in other slow-growing categories to give the coffee section adequate space to showcase all its strong segments and trends

Tea Sales Grow, Too

Tea sales in the U.S. have shown strong growth in 2016, continuing the upswing in ready-to-drink and refrigerated categories. Market research firm Packaged Facts estimates tea sales slightly exceeded $7 billion in 2015, up almost six percent. By 2020, Packaged Facts expects retail sales of tea in the U.S. to close in on $9 billion for the first time. 

Continued growth will come from the still hot ready-to-drink and refrigerated tea markets, as well as consumers’ ongoing recognition of tea’s healthy properties and their switch to tea from carbonated soft drinks. Most importantly, the category is quite dynamic: with innovative new products and creative new players that engage consumers. 

“The tea industry is known for both established brands in tea bags and ready-to-drink categories, with names like Lipton and AriZona joining traditional beverage heavyweights PepsiCo and Coca-Cola at the top of the tea chain,” noted David Sprinkle, research director, Packaged Facts. “The overall health of the industry can largely be measured by how those companies’ brands are performing. But much of the industry’s innovation still comes from smaller operators, who introduce new ingredients and flavors that consumers are eager to try.”

Eighteen companies have at least one percent of the tea market, a tribute to the variety of tea available on shelves. Still, the top five marketers account 56 percent of all tea sold in supermarkets, drugstores, mass merchandisers, military commissaries, and select club and dollar stores, as calculated by dollar sales. 

GMO Awareness Increases

U.S. consumers are now more informed about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the benefits of their use in producing food, but many still have concerns about them , finds The NPD Group. Over half of consumers in 2013 had little to no awareness of GMOs and that percentage has shrunk to a little over a third. As awareness grows more consumers recognize that GMOs have benefits in producing better and more resilient crops, but for many of those aware the benefits don’t outweigh their worry, making GMOs the fastest growing food additive concern, according to new NPD Group research.

TV news coverage and social media have informed consumers about GMOS and the benefits of their use, but the same channels have also fueled fears. Of those consumers aware of and concerned about GMOs, their worries center around food safety and their interest in eating foods that are authentic and “real,” finds the NPD report entitled Navigating GMOs for Success, which explores how genetically modified foods or beverages impact grocery shopping and consumption habits. The aware and concerned consumers tend to make healthy choices when grocery shopping and shop at specialty grocers, produce stores, and other grocery channels in addition to traditional grocery stores.

Although awareness of GMOs is increasing, very few consumers (11 percent) are aware that a federal GMO labeling law was passed in 2016. The law, which goes into effect in 2018, gives manufacturers the option of showing if their foods and beverages include genetically modified ingredients – either by words on the label, a symbol on the label, or an electronic code readable by a smartphone (QR code). Consumers, who are already relying on the packaging as a guide to determine if a product was made using GMOs, prefer on-package labeling versus using the QR code, reports NPD.

“With increasing awareness and concern, consumers would appreciate hearing from food manufacturers the reasons why they use GMOs and how this benefits their customers,” said Darren Seifer, NPD Group food and beverage industry analyst. “They want to know about what happened to the product before it reached the shelf in areas such as country of origin, corporate responsibility, allergens, and other health information. Consumers today want to be informed and appreciate it when food companies make the effort to educate them.”

Olive Oil Understanding

A study conducted for Unaprol by the Ixè research institute shows a basic knowledge of extra virgin olive oil is almost universal among European consumers (94 percent of the sample). But only 64 percent of interviewees were aware of the typological variations resulting from the different areas of production and their influence on quality. The figure is lower when it comes to use: only 42 percent of consumers use the product frequently. It is used mainly as a dressing for raw and cooked vegetables (87 percent), meat, fish, pasta or rice (67 percent), for cooking and frying (43 percent), and for preparing desserts, biscuits, bread (17 percent). Twenty percent of world consumers buy extra virgin olive oil for aesthetic and curative purposes, with particular interest from Asia. 

Tahini Market to Grow

Driven by growing popularity across the globe and steady adoption by the F&B industry, global tahini market volumes are estimated to surpass 314 thousand tons in 2016, up from nearly 305 thousand tons in 2015, according to the latest report published by Persistence Market Research.

Growing popularity of authentic Middle Eastern food flavors is expected to escalate the demand for tahini-based products, such as hummus and tahini spread. The surging significance of social media marketing will play a pivotal role in the promotion of tahini and derived products. Emerging tahini applications in hummus, butter and spreads, halva, salads, bakery products, toppings, and traditional Middle Eastern recipes such as Baba Ghanoush will also influence the market favorably.

By product type, tahini paste and spreads will witness the highest demand 

  • Paste and spreads segment will account for over 55 percent share in terms of revenues by 2025
  • Desserts and sweets segment, aggravated by growing popularity of halva, will maintain a market share of over 25 percent during the assessed period
  • Sustained consumption of tahini dips and sauces will fuel the sauces and dips sub-segment, capturing over 18 percent market value share

By distribution channel, major tahini sales will be directed through exports 

  • Conventional retail will lose its market share over 2015-2025; from over 37 percent market share in 2015, this sub-segment will settle at around 34 percent in 2025
  • Modern trade is expected to witness decent growth, accounting for a revenue share of over 29 percent by 2025 end
  • Exports will, however, exhibit the fastest growth in terms of a distribution channel. With over 20 percent share of the revenues, this sub-segment is anticipated to reach US$ 465.9 Mn with a promising CAGR of 6.1 percent.
Holiday Equals Food Waste

While the U.S. economy experiences a bump from the increase in holiday spending, shoppers generate considerable waste. On average, each day Americans produce 4.5 pounds of trash per person.2 At malls and other retail facilities, this includes packaging, shipping materials, shopping bags, and leftovers from the food court. As costs of discarding solid waste have increased significantly in recent years, retailers are looking at budget friendly ways to manage their garbage.Iain Milnes, founder and president of Power Knot, a manufacturer of eco-friendly and cost effective solutions for food waste disposal, notes that a number of retail managers – both in the U.S. and around the world – have realized the financial and CSR benefits of implementing successful waste reduction and management programs in their facilities.

“We are proud to announce that one of Power Knot’s customers, the Mall Plaza Egaña in Santiago, Chile, was rewarded this year for its accomplishments in environmental sustainability,” Milnes asserts.

Mall Plaza Egaña uses Power Knot’s LFC ® to reduce the size and quantity of food waste being sent to landfills. When waste food is sent to a landfill, it creates the third largest source of methane emissions into the environment. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activity.3 The Mall Plaza Egaña was awarded by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) for innovation in waste management and. The ICSC recognized the Mall Plaza Egaña as the “first sustainable mall in Chile.” 4 With the success they have received from the first LFC, the mall plans to purchase more LFCs in the coming year.

Miles explained that while food waste is of paramount concern in the U.S., it is a global environmental issue. When waste food decomposes in a landfill, it decomposes in an anaerobic manner, creating methane. When that methane escapes to the atmosphere, it is 72 times worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2). “Considering the amount of food being tossed away at retail center food courts around the world, it is clear that shopping centers can have a huge impact on the future of the planet.”

The LFC is a fully enclosed automatic composting machine that disposes of most food matter within 24 hours. Because the LFC weighs the amount of waste food that is ingested, and reports it to the LFC Cloud, the mall can understand when and where waste is generated. With these statistics, they can start to control the amount of waste with the eventual goal of causing reductions. The LFC is a practical alternative to the traditional disposal of waste food and eliminates the need to haul waste to a dumpster or trash site. Power Knot has many esteemed clients including Costco, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, and the US Army.

Commercial Beverage Blender Market Outlook

The global commercial beverage blender market is expected to grow at a CAGR of just above 8 percent during the forecast period if 2016-2020, according to Technavio’s latest report. By end-user, this market is segmented into juice bars, clubs, and pubs, restaurants, catering companies, and hotels.

Juice bars, clubs, pubs, and restaurants held a combined market share of more than 80 percent in 2015. This is mainly due to the increasing number of outlets offering blended beverages in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic forms. Additionally, restaurant chains like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts have plans of massive expansion in Asian markets, which will further propel the commercial beverage blender market.

Technavio’s research study segments the global commercial beverage blender market into the following regions:

  • North America
  • Europe
  • APAC
  • ROW

North America: largest commercial beverage blender market

“This market is driven by the health-conscious individuals who make up a majority of this market space. There is an ever-increasing demand for healthy smoothies, frozen beverages, and desserts in countries such as the US and Canada. Many consumers, especially the millennials, are switching from consumption of aerated and alcoholic beverages toward organic and healthy beverages mainly because of this increasing health consciousness,” said Manu Gupta, one of the lead market research analysts at Technavio.

This high demand for various types of drinking is creating a direct positive impact on the commercial beverage blender market. Additionally, most of the leading players in the commercial beverage blender market are headquartered within the US. This proximity makes it easier for the vendors to release products based on the latest market trends, thus helping them maintain the market lead.

Europe: market driven by cultural preferences of customer segment

The commercial beverage blender market in Europe will be driven by the cultural lifestyle of the residents, who enjoy dining out in cafes and restaurants very often. This creates a massive opportunity for various vendors who can cater to niche requirements that this market demands. Responding to this demand, major hotel chains have inaugurated new branches in countries like Iceland, Spain, London, and the UK.

The UK, Germany, and France are the key contributors for commercial beverage blender sales in the region. However, shifting consumer preference toward consumption of alternate forms of beverages such as carbonated drinks and flavored waters in many countries can create periods of slower growth in the forecast period. Waring, Hamilton Beach Brands, Vitamix, and Santos are some of the most popular brands of commercial beverage blenders in the region.

APAC: market driven by massive penetration of international retail chains

“Like North America, the developing countries in APAC are also showing an increased preference for healthy beverages. Thus, this region is emerging as lucrative market for frozen beverages and smoothies. This has brought forth many beverage providers such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donut, McCafé, Jamba Juice, and Smoothie King, who have massive expansion plans in countries like China and India,” added Gupta.

Other countries are not far behind in the market space. For instance, South Korea based Shinsegae Group announced its intention to buy the Korean network of Smoothie King to introduce the brand in Vietnam. Jamba Juice, a key vendor in the international juice market, has its presence in the Philippines, and Thailand also announced plans to expand its presence to Taiwan and Indonesia in 2016.

ROW: international tourism boosts market growth

The UAE, Brazil, and South Africa are some of the important markets for frozen beverages and smoothies in the region. The countries in this region are focusing on the betterment of their tourism industry, and the thriving tourist arrivals in the region are expected to positively influence the sales of commercial beverage blenders. This factor is encouraging many beverage providers to invest in better quality equipment to ensure consistency in taste and flavor, which is comparable to the drinks available in the US and the UK.

Another key driver is the increase in the number of new shopping malls in Latin American countries, which provides more retail space and a constant flow of customers. These malls see an increased adoption of blended refreshments for the shoppers, which directly impact the sales. Hamilton Beach and Univex are some of the examples of popular players offering commercial beverage blenders in Brazil.

The top vendors in the global commercial beverage blender market highlighted in the report are:

  • Vitamix
  • Blendtec
  • Hamilton Beach Brands
  • Waring
Social Media and Purchasing

Social media is having a huge effect on purchasing decisions, according to Digital commerce consultancy SUMO Heavy’s 2016 Social Commerce Survey. The survey report explores social media habits, including how users interact with various platforms and what opportunities the medium presents as an effective and profitable e-commerce channel for brands and retailers.

The report specifically sought to analyze the implications of increased social media usage on consumer behavior, and sheds light on the influences of the social sphere that were previously unmeasured. The findings reveal that:

  • Consumers turn to social media to learn about products. 1 in 4 respondents stated that they use social media to find specific product information.
  • Social newsfeeds can sway purchasing decisions. It’s obvious why social posts by friends and family influence 53 percent of consumers, but surprisingly, product feature posts have just as much influence.
  • Sponsored posts and social media ads are not effective. These marketing tactics by brands and retailers influence less than 16 percent of social media users.
  • Chatbots are starting to garner interest among shoppers. 55 percent of people who’ve tried shopping with a chatbot would do it again, and 39 percent of those who haven’t are now considering it.
  • Women are the early adopters of social commerce. Women are 60 percent more likely than men to have made past purchases directly through social media platforms.
  • Social commerce is being held back by unaddressed concerns. Security (77 percent) and privacy (66 percent) are the leading reasons why consumers are hesitant to shop on social.
  • Data from the 2016 Social Commerce Survey also indicates that, in order to tap into a consumer’s extended network, social sharing yields significant opportunities to capture more sales. As such, retailers will need to become more inventive with their social strategies by offering an experience that delivers on consumer feedback and encourages social shares. This will result in a more profitable commerce platform that retailers can fully embrace.

The report also dives into how different people interact with different platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

“Not long ago, social media was simply a means for raising brand awareness. What these survey results show is that social media has a much bigger influence. It has the potential to shake up the entire retail industry,” said Bart Mroz, co-founder and CEO of SUMO Heavy. “The future of retail will be powered by brand advocates, peer-to-peer influencers and savvy consumers who use social media as part of their transactions.”

Home Cooking is Trending

Will 2017 be the year Americans finally ditch fast food in favor of homemade? With the New Year on the horizon, online grocer Peapod and ORC International conducted a national survey to see what food resolutions will be topping many lists. Peapod found that the home cooking trend – 72 percent of Americans already report cooking at home four nights or more per week in 2016 – is not slowing down for 2017. In fact, over a third of Americans surveyed (34 percent) are planning to cook dinner at home even more in the New Year! Leading the cooking movement are Millennials, who are twice as likely as their older counterparts (49 percent of Millennials vs. 24 percent of Boomers) to make this a resolution for 2017.

After a season of holiday indulgences, Americans are looking forward to more mindful eating. Of those that cook at home, 53 percent would like to meal plan more in 2017. It seems Americans think a little more planning will pay off for many reasons. The top three reasons for meal planning are to save money (60 percent), eat healthy (59 percent) and waste less food (55 percent).

“On our recipe inspiration web site,, we’re definitely witnessing the trend of meal planning with consumers looking for new dinner ideas. In fact, traffic to our recipes increased 120 percent in 2016 from the previous year,” explained Andrea Eldridge, SVP Sales and Merchandising. “Some of the most popular recipes were those that require 15 minutes or less of prep time or utilize a slow cooker for easy cooking.”

What are Americans looking for when they plan dinner?

Something easy: The number 1 factor, regardless of age, when choosing what’s for dinner? Having the ingredients on hand. After that, Millennials and Boomers are split. Millennials say it has to be how easy/quick the recipe is to cook (63 percent) while Boomers say it’s the nutrition of the meal (74 percent).

Inspiration: Fifty-one percent of Americans would prepare dinner at home more often if they had new ideas. Millennials need the most inspiration at 63 percent compared to the more experienced Boomers at 42 percent.

Stovetop Recipes: Overwhelmingly Americans will be looking for stovetop friendly recipes as they prepare dinner. Forty-four percent report the stovetop as their top tool at least 4 nights a week compared to just 25 percent of Americans that will be turning on the oven and 24 percent that are microwavers.