According to a Recent Study/Survey … End-of-April 2018 Edition

This edition of Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine’s “According to …” research roundup features top concepts, top chains, top dining destinations,  top flavor trends, top sales days for restaurant and more.

Top Restaurant Days of the Year
According to new analysis from Womply, two of the biggest sales days of the year are coming up for local, independent restaurants. Our data science team analyzed transactions at 26,000 small, local restaurants during every day of the 2017 calendar year to see sales patterns and seasonality. Here’s what we found out about Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day:
Cinco de Mayo
  • Surprisingly, Cinco de Mayo is a huge sales day, ranking #36 out of all 365 days of the year for restaurant revenue 
  • It ranks ahead of Valentine’s Day (#107), New Year’s Eve (#84), St. Patrick’s Day (#48), and the Super Bowl (#274)
  • Compared to an average day, total revenue increase 37 percent thanks to a 41 percent boost in transaction volume—so, basically, way more people eat out
  • Cinco is the #1 revenue day of the year for 6.2 percent of all local restaurants nationally
  • Cinco is the #1 day of the year for restaurants in 7 states and a top 10 day for 15 states
Mother’s Day
  • It’s by far the biggest day for restaurants, ranking #1 out of all 365 days
  • Total revenue increases 64 percent thanks to a 12 percent boost in transactions and 47 percent boost in average ticket size—people spend way more on mom 🙂
  • A staggering 44 percent of all local restaurants nationally report Mother’s Day as their top sales day of the year, which is super surprising given the predictable seasonality we see. Major consumer behavior shift on Mother’s Day
  • It’s the #1 revenue day for restaurants in 13 states, a top 10 day in 28 states, and a top 100 day for every state except Utah 
QSRs Doing Well in 2018

We’re now one quarter into 2018, and spending is showing healthy signs of growth, with Quick service restaurants (QSRs) standing out as especially strong, according to global payments technology company First Data. The company analyzed real transactions at 1.3 million merchant locations for eCommerce and in-store in the U.S., and is now sharing the full results on spending during Q1.

Key spending highlights include:

  • Quick Service, Continued Growth: QSRs saw strong growth in 2017 and the trend has continued into 2018 with 6.8 percent YOY spending growth across all channels in the first quarter.
  • eCommerce Fuels Growth: The QSR category has seen a steady increase across channels the last several quarters, but in Q1 2018, eCommerce spending growth clocked in at 8.4 percent, outpacing brick & mortar’s 6.5 percent growth.
  • Online Ordering: In Q1 2018, QSR accounted for 2.7 percent of restaurant eCommerce spending, up from 2.47 percent in Q1 2017. Family dining accounted for the largest portion of restaurant eCommerce spending at 16.88 percent. 
  • Upscale Sees Declines: In contrast, upscale dining struggled significantly during the last three quarters, with overall spending growth dropping to -1.7 percent YOY in the first quarter of 2018. Casual (1.2 percent), family (2 percent), and fast casual dining (1.5 percent) saw more modest growth.
  • Quarterly Gains: Total spending across all categories in the first quarter grew 4.8 percent YOY, making it the best of the last four quarters. Non-retail spend categories such as in travel (8 percent), services (8 percent) and gasoline (8.9 percent) helped drive the increase. Retail spend was up 1.6 percent YOY in Q1, in line with the last quarter of 2017.
  • Brick & Mortar Holds On: Total spending across brick & mortar grew 3.2 percent YOY, a notable figure given rampant store closings. Meanwhile, eCommerce spending saw stronger 8.7 percent YOY growth, and accounted for 31 percent of all spend in the first quarter.

First Data powers nearly half of all credit and debit card transactions in the U.S. and offers insights via its SpendTrend Report—a macro-economic indicator based on aggregate same store sales activity across merchant locations First Data processes transactions for in the U.S. The full report is available here.

America’s Favorite Chains

A new, large-scale consumer study conducted by Market Force Information (Market Force) reveals America’s favorite quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains in five popular food categories: burgers, sandwiches, Mexican, pizza and chicken. The study found In-N-Out is America’s favorite burger chain, Wawa ranked first for sandwiches, Chipotle for Mexican food, Pizza Ranch for pizza and Chick-fil-A for chicken.

Nearly 11,500 consumers were polled for the study, which also reveals consumers’ QSR dining habits, brand preferences and in-restaurant technology use.

“In this year’s study, we saw that scores on the Composite Loyalty Index for QSR brands across all categories declined from last year,” said Brad Christian, chief customer officer at Market Force Information. “We attribute this to two factors: consumer expectations of the QSR experience are rising, and, in many cases, execution at these restaurants is declining. As our research continues to show, delighting guests by providing an exceptional customer experience is a key differentiator in an incredibly competitive environment.”

Burgers: In-N-Out Burger is Favorite, McDonald’s Lands at Bottom

In-N-Out fans are known for their fierce loyalty and – in many cases – their pleas for this regional burger chain to bring a location to their town. The California-based chain ranked No. 1 among burger chains in Market Force’s 2018 QSR study for the second consecutive year, followed by Culver’s in second place and Five Guys in third. In-N-Out also received the highest scores across all QSR food categories studied, making it America’s favorite QSR across the board. On the flip side, Burger King, Jack in the Box and McDonald’s ranked lowest among the 13 burger chains studied. [See Graph 1].

Graph 1: Favorite QSR Burger Chains

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

In-N-Out Dominates All Customer Experience Categories

In-N-Out was not only the favorite QSR burger brand overall, but it also took the top spot in all eight customer experience categories, including value, food quality, service speed, staff friendliness, cleanliness, atmosphere, healthy options and curb appeal. Five Guys and Culver’s also consistently performed well, with Five Guys ranking second for food, speed of service and cleanliness, and Culver’s ranking second for atmosphere, friendliness and curb appeal. Results were based on the study participants’ most recent visit to a given restaurant. [See Graph 2.]

Graph 2: Favorite QSR Burger Chains Ranked by Customer Experience Attributes 

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Burger Category Highlights:

  • 46 percent visited a burger fast-food or fast-casual restaurant at least five times in the previous
    90 days
  • 44 percent used the drive-thru during their most recent visit and 38 percent dined in
  • 18 percent brought children on their most recent visit
  • Smashburger has the highest awareness for its loyalty program
  • McDonald’s has the highest mobile app awareness

Sandwiches: Wawa Advances Four Spots to Unseat Firehouse Subs  

More and more, QSR brands are seeing competition from convenience stores and, for the first time in this study’s history, a convenience store was named America’s favorite spot to grab a sandwich.

Wawa is a 54-year-old chain with more than 790 convenience retail stores on the East Coast. It offers fresh food selections such as custom-prepared hoagies, freshly brewed coffee, hot breakfast sandwiches, specialty beverages and an assortment of soups and sides. Wawa rose four places to unseat the 2017 sandwich category winner, Firehouse Subs, which slipped 15 percentage points to land in second place this year. Jersey Mike’s was third, followed by Jimmy John’s, Jason’s Deli and McAlister’s Deli [See Graph 3].

Graph 3: Favorite QSR Sandwich Chains

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Firehouse Subs Performs Well, Arby’s Lags

No single brand dominated across the eight customer experience attributes that Market Force studied, though Firehouse Subs took the top spot in two – food quality and atmosphere – and tied with Jersey Mike’s and Jimmy John’s for staff friendliness. Jason’s Deli came out on top for healthy options, while Jimmy John’s ranked highest for speed of service and overall cleanliness. Wawa was again No. 1 for value, five percentage points ahead of second place Subway. Arby’s was last in nearly all of the categories. [See Graph 4].

Graph 4: Favorite QSR Sandwich Chains Ranked by Attributes

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Sandwich Category Highlights

  • 32 percent visited a sandwich chain at least five times in the previous 90 days
  • Half of customers chose take-out on their most recent visit, while 36 percent dined in
  • Only 12 percent brought children on their most recent visit
  • Panera led in loyalty card awareness – 78 percent know they offer one
  • Wawa once again has the highest mobile app awareness with 67 percent, up from 48 percent in 2017

Mexican: Chipotle Narrowly Hangs onto First Place

Denver-based Chipotle, a chain that has weathered tough times in recent years, narrowly ranked first in the Mexican food category for the second consecutive year. El Pollo Loco overtook Moe’s Southwest Grill to rank in second place this year, while Qdoba ranked third and El Pollo Loco ranked fourth. Taco Bell landed at the bottom. [See Graph 5.] 

Graph 5: Favorite QSR Mexican Chains  

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Chipotle Leads in Food, Del Taco in Value

Chipotle earned the top spot for many customer experience categories, including food quality, service speed, healthy options and cleanliness. It also tied with El Pollo for curb appeal. Del Taco was the value leader, while Moe’s Southwest Grill was found to have the friendliest staff, and Qdoba the best atmosphere. Taco Bell, Taco John’s and Taco Bueno ranked toward the bottom in most categories. [See Graph 6.]

Graph 6: Favorite QSR Mexican Chains Ranked by Attributes 

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Mexican Food Category Highlights:

  • 37 percent visited a Mexican QSR chain at least five times in the previous 90 days
  • 41 percent dined in during their most recent visit, and 30 percent used the drive-thru
  • 22 percent brought children on their most recent visit
  • Qdoba has the highest awareness for its loyalty program with 58 percent
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill has the most awareness of its mobile app with 47 percent

Pizza: Pizza Ranch is Big Cheese With Diners

Pizza Ranch, an Iowa-based chain with 200 locations in 13 states, took the No. 1 spot this year in the pizza category, a title Marco’s Pizza held in 2017. Papa Murphy’s again came in second, followed by Marco’s Pizza, Domino’s and Papa John’s. [See Graph 7].

Graph 7: Favorite QSR Pizza Chains

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Pizza Ranch, Papa Murphy’s Excel in Customer Experience

Pizza Ranch and Papa Murphy’s led in every customer experience category except value, which went to Little Caesar’s. Papa Murphy’s was No. 1 for food quality, healthy options and cleanliness, while Pizza Ranch was a clear winner in atmosphere and curb appeal and was also found to have the friendliest staff and fastest service speed, best atmosphere and curb appeal. Marco’s Pizza also performed well, landing in the top three in five key categories. [See Graph 8].  

Graph 8: Favorite QSR Pizza Chains Ranked by Customer Experience Attributes 

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Pizza Category Highlights:

  • 28 percent visited a pizza chain at least five times in the previous 90 days
  • Take out (55 percent) is still the most popular way to dine for pizza chain customers
  • 21 percent brought children on their most recent visit
  • Pizza Ranch led in loyalty card awareness – 90 percent of customers know they offer one
  • Domino’s has the highest awareness for its mobile app – 67 percent are familiar with it

Chicken: Chick-fil-A Rules Roost for Fourth Consecutive Year

Chick-fil-A is America’s favorite chicken chain for the fourth straight year with a 73 percent score. Raising Cane’s ranked second with 68 percent, Zaxby’s and El Pollo Loco tied for third with 51 percent each, Boston Market ranked third with 46 percent and Popeyes rounded out the top five with 42 percent. KFC landed at the bottom of the 10 chains studied. [See Graph 9]. 

Graph 9: Favorite QSR Chicken Chains

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Chick-fil-A Lauded for Food and Service

Once again, category-leader Chick-fil-A received the highest scores in every category except healthy options, a top ranking that went to El Pollo Loco for the third consecutive year. Raising Cane’s also performed well, landing in second place in seven of the eight categories. KFC was last in six categories, and Buffalo Wild Wings was rated lowest for value. [See Graph 10]. 

Graph 10: Favorite QSR Chicken Chains Ranked by Attributes 

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Chicken Category Highlights

  • 31 percent visited a chicken chain at least five times in the previous 90 days
  • The majority of customers opted for the drive-thru (39 percent), followed closely by those who chose to dine in the restaurant (33 percent)
  • 20 percent dined with children on their most recent visit
  • Buffalo Wild Wings led in loyalty card awareness – 44 percent know they offer one
  • Chick-fil-A has the highest mobile app awareness with 55 percent, followed by El Pollo Loco with 45 percent

More Using Tech to Place Orders

The use of technology by QSR guests to place their orders continues to steadily grow, with 39 percent reporting that they ordered their meals via smartphone app in the past 90 days, a significant increase from 2015 when just 11 percent reported doing so. Additionally, 28 percent used a kiosk and 27 percent used a tablet to place their order. [See Graph 11]. 

Graph 11: Use of Tech to Place Orders in 2018 vs. Past Years

New Study from Market Force Information Reveals America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent QSR experience, and their likelihood to refer that restaurant to others. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Index score. Only chains that received at least 100 votes and representing 2 percent or more of votes were analyzed. The survey was conducted online in February 2018 across the United States. The pool of 11,487 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions. Fifty percent reported household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 73 percent were women and 26 percent were men.

Top Concepts for 2018 recently released their Top 300 list for 2018.  The list summarizes US operating data (units, average unit volume estimates and sales estimates) by concept. contacts over 4,500 chains in the US at least once a year.  In addition, they routinely check chain websites, SEC reports, franchise disclosure documents and articles in the top industry publications.

In a constant flow of moving data, researchers track and publish new restaurant openings weekly and restaurant closings semi-annually.

The Top 300 list is ranked using annual sales estimates by concept. The Top 10 concepts in order are McDonalds, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-Fil-A, Domino’s and Panera Bread.  These concepts produce over 43 percent of the estimated annual sales for the entire Top 300. The Top 100 concepts include mostly well established, dominant chains. Most are either listed on a major stock exchange or are owned by a major private equity firm.  Many of the Top 100 concepts are franchised. The next 200 concepts include many growing chains and declining chains.

To see the TOP 300 click here.

Top Dining Destinations

New York has been crowned the world’s best dining destination, according to the seventh annual poll of its readers by private jet lifestyle publication Elite Traveler.

A total of 13 New York restaurants feature on the Elite Traveler Top 100 Restaurants in the World this year – overtaking Paris as the city with the most award winners. However, it was Chicago that came out on top in terms of rankings, with the much-lauded Alinea being crowned the best restaurant in the world.  

Leading the charge for New York is Daniel Humm’s Eleven Madison Park, which has retained its third-place position from 2017. Two other New York restaurants also make the top 10:  Thomas Keller’s Per Se in fourth place and seafood restaurant Le Bernardin in eighth place.

The number one spot was awarded to Grant Achatz’s Alinea. On receiving the prestigious honor, he commented: “It’s been a busy year, but this recognition by Elite Traveler and everything we’ve accomplished makes all the hard work worthwhile.”

The US has been recognized as the best performing country in the world, with 28 restaurants making the list, while France followed with 18 award winners. Other standout countries include Spain with 8 winners, Italy and the UK both having 7 on the list and Germany claiming five places in the top 100.

Other US cities with strong showings include San Francisco, with Saison (47), Coi (70), Atelier Crenn (54), Benu (81), Single Thread Farms (86) and Quince (91) all making the list, as well as Chicago, with Alinea (1), Next (41) and Smyth + The Loyalist (96).

New entries on the list include La Dame de Pic (100), Bibendum (97), Smyth + The Loyalist (96), Brae (95), Le Coucou (93), The Modern (90), Masa (94) and Single Thread Farms (86).

This year’s Lifetime Achievement Award was received by Daniel Boulud, who describes his work in the kitchen at Daniel as collaborative as opposed to an individual project based around the ethos of one chef. “Dishes are not coming from one individual. They’re coming from everybody’s collaboration together. It’s a collective work. It’s definitely a form of partnership the way we are working here.” 

The top 10 restaurants in the Elite Traveler Top 100 Restaurants 2018 include:

  1. Alinea, Chicago
  2. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain 
  3. Eleven Madison Park, New York
  4. Per Se, New York
  5. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
  6. Robuchon au Dôme, Macau
  7. The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, USA 
  8. Le Bernardin, New York
  9. Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, Crissier, Switzerland
  10. The Fat Duck, Bray, UK 
Locally Identified Foods Promote Sustainable Development

Food products with trademarked geographical labels, which have specific qualities or reputations tied to their place of origin, already account for annual trade of more than $50 billion worldwide, according to the report, Strengthening sustainable food systems through geographical indications, by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The concept is not new: products from Bordeaux wine to Parmigiano cheese have had protected labeling for decades or centuries. But the idea is spreading and such products are taking off throughout developing countries and regions.

“Geographical indications are an approach to food production and marketing systems that place social, cultural and environment considerations at the heart of the value chain,” said Emmanuel Hidier, Senior Economist in FAO’s Investment Centre.

“They can be a pathway to sustainable development for rural communities by promoting quality products, strengthening value chains, and improving access to more remunerative markets,” he added.

The report analyzes the economic impact of Geographical Indication registration in nine case studies: Colombian coffee, Darjeeling tea (India), Futog cabbage (Serbia), Kona coffee (United States), Manchego cheese (Spain), Penja pepper (Cameroon), Taliouine saffron (Morocco), Tête de Moine cheese (Switzerland) and Vale dos Vinhedos wine (Brazil).

For example, it reveals that by registering Penja pepper – grown in the Penja Valley’s volcanic soil in Cameroon and the first African product to receive the label – local farmers have increased their incomes six-fold.

“The process – from setting standards to registration and promotion – has benefited not only local farmers, but the whole local area in terms of revenues, productivity, the growth of other connected industries, and importantly, the inclusion of all stakeholders,” said Emmanuel Nzenowo, from the Penja Pepper producers’ association.

Case studies: Penja pepper and Futog cabbage

In the case of Penja pepper, a white pepper grown in the Penja Valley’s volcanic soil in Cameroon and the first African product to receive a geographical indication label, registration has helped to stimulate a six-fold increase in local farmers’ incomes.

“The process – from setting standards to registration and promotion – has benefited not only local farmers, but the whole local area in terms of revenues, productivity, the growth of other connected industries, and importantly, the inclusion of all stakeholders,” said Emmanuel Nzenowo, from the Penja Pepper producers’ association.

A GI label for the Futog cabbage, grown on the fertile lowlands alongside the Danube River in northern Serbia, has provided a small community of growers with a substantial rise in incomes in recent years, with some farmers achieving a 70 percent increase in sales prices.

“Since the registration of the product, local producers have begun working more closely together, and this has helped to protect the unique quality of the Futog cabbage and its agricultural tradition. It has also helped to defend its name and reputation, which had often been misused in the past,” said Miroljub Jankovic from the Futog Cabbage Association.

The registration of products linked to their place of origin has implications running far deeper than economic gains alone. Local producers and processors at the centre of the registration process help make food systems more inclusive and more efficient. Together, producers develop the product specifications, and promote and protect the origin label. The creation of such labels also stimulates public-private sector dialogue as public authorities are often closely associated with the registration and certification process.

“In our regions, which neighbour the EU, there is strong interest in GIs from governments as they can see the extent to which they have triggered positive rural development in countries such as France and Italy,” said Natalya Zhukova, EBRD Director, Head of Agribusiness. “Now, our agribusiness clients from the retail and processing sectors are also interested in supporting GI processes and markets as they can see that consumers in local and EU markets are interested in food origin and quality.”

Registration of a Geographical Indication label follows the laws and regulations defined by each country. Internationally, the labels are regulated and protected under the TRIPs Agreement, a multilateral agreement on intellectual property rights that is recognized by all the members of the World Trade Organization.

The study recognises a number of hurdles that producers must consider before applying for an origin label. For example, some small-scale or traditional producers may be excluded if product specifications are overly industrialized, or if they are onerous in areas such as packaging.

The report also stresses that environmental impacts must be considered, and specifications must include requirements to protect against overexploitation of natural resources.

“The unique linkages of these products with their natural and cultural resources in local areas make them a useful tool in the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular by preserving a food heritage and contributing to healthy diets,” said Florence Tartanac Senior Officer in the FAO Nutrition and Food Systems Division.

FAO and the EBRD have been working together to support producers and local authorities in developing sustainable Geographical Indication products in countries including Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey. FAO also works with other partners to promote origin-based products in Afghanistan, Benin andThailand among others.

Gains from labeling surpass finances alone. The practice can also stimulate public-private sector dialogue, the report notes, as authorities are often associated closely with the registration and certification process.

While each country defines its own laws for registering their labels, they are regulated and protected under the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, an international legal agreement among World Trade Organization members.

The report also recognizes potential pitfalls. Some small-scale or traditional producers may be excluded, for example, if specifications are overly complex. Environmental impacts must also be weighed and minimized.

But overall, the study finds, geographic labeling has had significant positive effects on prices of the trademarked goods, whether long-established or recently registered.

“The unique linkages of these products with their natural and cultural resources in local areas make them a useful tool in the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular by preserving a food heritage and contributing to healthy diets,” said Florence Tartanac, Senior Officer in the FAO Nutrition and Food Systems Division.

Flavor Trends

Mintel announced the major flavor trends that are just emerging, are already hitting the mainstream and those that are set to shape the future of foodservice in 2018 and beyond.

Among the flavors already creating buzz in the US, Middle Eastern cuisine has become an inspiration for fusion flavors, ‘less sweet’ desserts featuring ingredients such as olive oil and vinegar are gaining popularity, and functional ingredients are adding color and flavor to food and drinks.

Meanwhile, Mintel predicts spice blends, sauces and condiments will introduce diners to emerging international cuisines, while new spins on seasonings and preparation methods will bring meaty flavors to both meat and vegetables alike.

Looking ahead, expect to see chefs and scientists push the limits of creativity to provide a sense of balance and harmony in foods through ‘kokumi,’ which adds complexity and depth to dishes.

“Flavor is an ever-evolving art, ripe with opportunities for interpretation, innovation and creativity.
Today, that opportunity lies in the expansion of international flavors and ingredients and in the years ahead, we predict the ingenuity of new dishes will come down to enhancing the chemistry of ingredients to create hearty masterpieces. The future of flavor also lies in creating healthy dishes without giving up satisfying taste,” said Amanda Topper, Associate Director of Foodservice Research at Mintel.

Food Safety Disinfection Market

Demand for disinfection products used in food safety, including chemical disinfectants and sanitizers, disinfection equipment, and other products such as disinfectant wipes, is projected to advance 3.9 percent annually to $1.7 billion in 2022. Disinfection products account for the largest share of food safety product demand, representing 35 percent of the market in 2017. While much of the historical growth for disinfection products has been driven by government regulations, new product developments and technological advancements will stimulate demand going forward. These and other trends are presented in Food Safety Products in the US, 5th Edition, a new study from The Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

More information about this study is here.

Demand for disinfectant and sanitizer chemicals – at the formulated (ready-to-use, or ready-to-dilute) level – in food safety applications is forecast to increase 3.2 percent annually to $1.0 billion in 2022. Continuing government and business efforts to eliminate contamination at the food processing level will drive gains. Additionally, consumer concerns about foodborne illness will support demand as food processors and foodservice establishments try to prevent the fallout associated with high-profile outbreaks.

US demand for all types of food safety products is forecast to grow 4.9 percent annually to $5.2 billion in 2022, a slight deceleration from the 2012-2017 pace. Gains will be driven by ongoing implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which, although originally enacted in 2011, has compliance dates staggered through 2022. Further technological improvements will also boost efforts to increase traceability in the food supply chain.

Millennial Parent Spending Habits

As millennials reach their late 20s and 30s, many are reaching their next step in life: parenthood. And findings from the spring edition of the National Retail Federation’s quarterly Consumer View report  provide insight into how these new parents shop, spend and engage with brands differently than parents in other generations.

“The millennial generation has at turns confounded, inspired and challenged researchers and analysts with their spending habits,” NRF Director of Retail and Consumer Insights Katherine Cullen said. “As many millennials move into parenthood, we are beginning to see how their expectations and shopping preferences compare with those of previous generations. Whether it’s using a subscription service to make sure diapers don’t run out or going online to research the best crib or car seat, millennials shop differently than other parents.”

Born between 1981 and 1994, millennials are parents to 50 percent of today’s children, more than 1 million millennial women become new mothers each year, and millennials make a significant contribution to the $1 trillion U.S. parents spend annually on raising their children.

Millennial parents differ from other parents both in their lifestyle and shopping choices. According to the report, 40 percent hold a graduate degree, or more than double the 19 percent of other parents, and 69 percent of respondents earn more than the national median income of $59,000 a year, compared with 53 percent of other parents. Millennials also hold a positive outlook on their futures: the generation’s consumer confidence has risen by more than 20 percentage points since 2008, and a third feel that their financial situation has improved over the last year. And 80 percent of millennials with children are in their 30s.

With so much information available on mobile devices, millennial parents turn to their smartphones at every point during shopping. The study found 78 percent use their phones to research products (compared with 58 percent of other parents), 75 percent to check prices or availability (also compared with 58 percent) and 71 percent to pay at checkout or place an order (51 percent). In addition, 71 percent will leave a review, process a return or chat with customer service after purchasing, compared with 43 percent of other parents.

Millennial parents are often in a hurry, and 86 percent have used same-day shipping compared with just 67 percent of parents from other generations. And they’re willing to pay for convenience – only 53 percent expect free shipping on small orders under $50 compared with 66 percent of other parents. Subscription services – which can supply automatic refills and discounted prices on items such as diapers, formula and baby wipes – are used by 40 percent, compared with 18 percent of other parents.

“To keep parents of any generation happy, brands and retailers must deliver on both price and quality,” Cullen said. “But millennials are very concerned about good customer services and are twice as likely to back out of a purchase for lack of it. For millennials, service ranks ahead of convenience, selection and loyalty programs.”

Millennial parents say where they shop matters, with 44 percent only shopping at brands that reflect their social or political values, a factor cited by only 23 percent of parents from other generations.

Once a brand gains the loyalty of millennial parents, they are much more likely to stick with it than other parents. The survey found 49 percent remain loyal to a brand despite cheaper options, compared with 30 percent of other parents. And 52 percent will remain loyal despite more convenient options, compared with 35 percent of other parents, and 64 percent will shop at a brand they are loyal to before looking at a competitor, compared with 54 percent of other parents.

This nationally representative survey targeted 3,002 U.S. adult consumers 18 or older between January 30 and February 18.

British Consumers Worry About Plastic Waste

Some 80 percent of British consumers rate plastic waste as a serious environmental threat. At the same time, 63 percent want industry to consider future waste problems at the production stage already. And consumer qualms are likely to grow because following the Chinese ban on plastic waste imports, the UK can’t dispose of waste properly at home. IFAT, the premier global trade fair for environmental technologies, has published its IFAT Environment Index 2018 detailing what consumers think about environmental problems and potential solutions. The survey asked 1,000 people in the United Kingdom.

The British government announced that until recently the United Kingdom had been exporting more than a quarter of its plastic waste to China. Following the import ban, around 500,000 tons of plastic annually will have to be disposed of elsewhere. However, in contrast to paper and glass, mono-fraction sorting of plastic waste isn’t possible – recycling is low value due to disposable material in particular. In a BBC interview, Simon Ellin from the UK’s Recycling Association said that he had no idea how the British waste industry would cope with the new mountains of plastic in the short term. He went on to say that the country lacked the relevant markets and that industry was facing huge changes.

The vast majority of British consumers view waste as an issue that affects every citizen and advocate responsible treatment of it (84 percent). Some 65 percent believe that it’s up to local authorities to manage waste disposal. Only 27 percent want industry to play the leading role in disposing of waste.

“The IFAT Environment Index shows that a large majority of British consumers support applying modern environmental technologies. Three quarters recommend making waste so recyclable in future that it becomes a valuable raw material,” says IFAT director Stefan Rummel. “A sustainable circular economy should replace exporting waste to Asia and recycle all plastics with the aid of high-tech environmental technology. Experts will be presenting ways of solving the pressing problems of plastic waste in the United Kingdom, Europe and across the world at IFAT, the world’s premier trade fair for waste and raw materials management, in Munich from 14 to 18 May 2018”.

Packaging and Sustainability

Consumers say that sustainability influences their purchases but most don’t notice sustainability branding on packaging, according to a new study by QuadPackaging (QP) and Package InSight, a Clemson University partner. The research examined whether or not shoppers’ behaviors are influenced by a visual sustainability rating system placed on the front of packaging.

Clemson University’s Retail Lab enables survey participants to ‘shop’ using mobile eye-tracking – the latest in biometric technology.

Ninety-two percent of the study participants did not notice sustainability logos on the packages despite 53 percent of participants saying that a simple rating system would impact their purchase and over 40 percent claiming sustainability influences their buying decisions.

“These results are not surprising if you take into account the barrage of logos, seals and stamps found on consumer package goods claiming some form of sustainability,” said Paul Nowak, senior director of sales strategy and business development at QP, a division of Quad/Graphics. “Consumers have become numb to all the messaging on packaging which hinders the penetration of sustainability claims.”

Package InSight, which studies package performance, consumer attention and shelf impact, conducted the research in Clemson’s retail lab. QP and Package InSight collaborated to create generic packaging for food, beverage and health categories and a sustainability logo that replicated an inspection or grading concept – similar to the A-B-C grading of restaurants and the idea of validation of that grade by a larger industry association (e.g. Craft Brewer Seal).

Participants “shopped” in a typical grocery store experience using mobile eye-tracking –the latest in biometric technology.

“People buy with their eyes,” said Dr. Julie Rice, associate director at Package InSight. “Using the eye-tracking technology in this study allowed us to provide insight into what draws an observer’s attention and cognitive process; in this case, there was little interest in the sustainability logos.”

QuadPackaging and Package InSight instead recommend that companies focus more on integrated marketing campaigns to educate customers about the efforts they are making and what their sustainability claims mean.

“It might be important to your brand to include these logos, but you don’t need prime packaging real estate – awareness and education are more important to get through to consumers,” recommended Nowak.

Mother’s Day Spending

Mother’s Day spending is expected to total a near-record $23.1 billion this year, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics. A total 86 percent of Americans will celebrate Mother’s Day and spend an average of $180 per person.

“This year’s Mother’s Day forecast is one of the strongest we’ve ever seen,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With spring in full bloom, Americans are looking forward to splurging on their mothers and retailers are prepared to offer a variety of options that will allow consumers to find the perfect gift for the occasion.”

The expected spending would be second only to last year’s $23.6 billion, the highest in the 15-year history of the survey at an average $186 per person.

According to the survey, consumers plan to spend $4.6 billion on jewelry (purchased by 34 percent of shoppers), $4.4 billion on special outings such as dinner or brunch (55 percent) and $2.6 billion on flowers (69 percent). In addition, $2.5 billion will be spent on gift cards (45 percent), $2.1 billion on clothing (36 percent), $2.1 billion on consumer electronics (14 percent) and $1.8 billion on personal services such as a spa day (24 percent). Another $956 million will be spent on housewares or gardening tools (19 percent), $813 million on greeting cards (77 percent) and $494 million on books or music (19 percent).

The survey found 29 percent want to receive a “gift of experience” such as a spa day, tickets to a concert or gym membership while 26 percent plan to give such a gift. Gifts of experience are given most often — 45 percent of those surveyed — by 18 to 34-year olds.

“Mother’s Day continues to be a holiday close to the heart of many Americans and this year is no different,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “Those between 35 and 44 years old are planning to spend the most this season, while younger consumers are the most likely to put their online shopping skills to good use to find inspiration for the perfect gift for mom.”

Individuals ages 35-44 will be the biggest spenders this year at an average $224. However, those between 18-24 will most likely use smartphones to research their purchases and compare prices at 62 percent.

When searching for gifts, 35 percent of consumers will head to department stores and 31 percent will shop online, while 29 percent plan to shop at specialty stores such as florists, jewelers or electronics stores. Meanwhile, 23 percent plan to shop at a local small business, 22 percent at discount stores and 10 percent at specialty clothing stores.

The survey, which asked 7,520 consumers about their Mother’s Day plans, was conducted April 4-12 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

Business Traveler Survey

The Hyatt Place and Hyatt House brands released findings from a Business Traveler Survey, which was conducted online by The Harris Poll and consisted of more than 1,300 adults across the United States, China and India who have traveled for business in the last 12 months (international business travelers), to gain a greater understanding of how business travel can deliver both personal and professional growth on the road. The brands collaborated with entrepreneur Bill Rancic to reveal the survey findings last night in New York City, alongside the winners of the 2018 #WhySettle Spirit Awards.

The #WhySettle Spirit Awards honors hard-working individuals who never settle when it comes to work or supporting the ones they love, and this year’s categories were tailored to three distinct personas that embody the “why settle” spirit through relentless drive and ambition:

  • The 24/7 MVP – business travelers who always manage to make the meeting, make dinner and make it all look easy
  • The Inspiring Innovator – business travelers who have taken charge of their careers and follow their own passions to pave the way
  • The Road Warrior – business travelers who have logged so many miles that even flight attendants know their name

Expanding on its “You’ve Come Too Far to Settle Now” platform, the #WhySettle Spirit Awards and Business Traveler Survey celebrate today’s modern business travelers who never settle for “good enough” in their careers and should never settle for “good enough” when it comes to their hotel stay.

“Both Hyatt Place and Hyatt House hotels are designed to meet the needs of business travelers and we conducted a survey to further understand the business traveler psyche and how these go-getters think, act and feel while on the road,” said Steven Dominguez, vice president of global brands, Hyatt Place and Hyatt House. “From the way we design our rooms to our balanced menu and craft cocktail options that cater to hard-working professionals – we believe our travelers deserve the best and shouldn’t settle for anything less.”

During the survey launch event, Rancic and the #WhySettle Spirit Award winners shared travel tricks and tips that can help business travelers make the most of life on the road. Rancic, a frequent business traveler himself, revealed how he shares similar experiences with other travelers as found in the study.

“As a business traveler, I’m looking for seamless experiences that set me up for success while on the road,” said Rancic, “Hyatt Place and Hyatt House hotels are a trusted launching point and home base for road warriors like me because they are reliable, comfortable and unobtrusive, allowing guests to be as productive as possible.”

The Business Traveler Survey provided insight on the mindset of these road warriors, including what motivates them and what they learn during their travels.

  • 77 percent of U.S. business travelers believe business travel has helped them to communicate more successfully with different types of people, and that percentage is even greater in China (88 percent) and India (95 percent)
  • 68 percent of U.S. business travelers say business travel has inclined them to be more empathic towards others, and this number increases in China (88 percent) and India (90 percent)
  • 59 percent of international business travelers identify themselves as someone who sees obstacles not as challenges but asopportunities to grow. More importantly, 92 percent of employed U.S. business travelers are motivated to advance their career and the percentage is even higher in China (96 percent) and India (96 percent)
  • Among those motivated international business travelers, more are driven by creating a better life for their families (48 percent) than receiving praise or recognition at work (33 percent)
  • 77 percent of U.S. business travelers believe being on the road has taught them skills they can use when facing challenges in their personal life and that number is even higher in China (88 percent) and India (90 percent)

Furthermore, the survey reveals their habits (consisting of adults in the U.S., China and India), including:

  • 22 percent of business travelers think wearing pajamas on conference calls is a major benefit of taking business trips that require hotel stays.
  • 27 percent of business travelers admit they binge watch shows that they haven’t been able to watch at home while traveling
  • 26 percent of international business travelers indulge by having a stiff drink at the bar while traveling
Airport Advertising Influence

Clear Channel Airports released a consumer insights study, showing airport advertising offers consumers a great opportunity to absorb and respond to brand messaging. The CCA-commissioned Nielsen study reveals airport advertising is a highly effective media platform that reaches frequent flyers, tourists and business travelers and raises brand awareness while driving sales to local and national businesses. The study provides insights into frequent flyer responsiveness to airport advertising, the types of activities travelers engage in while waiting for their flights, and what actions consumers take after being exposed to airport advertisements such as social media activity, in-store retail shopping and e-commerce activity.

According to the study, frequent flyers are highly responsive to airport advertising, with 80 percent noticing the media and 42 percent taking action that includes visiting a website, going to a store or learning more about a product/brand/service. Nineteen percent of frequent flyers actually bought a product they saw advertised at the airport.

More specifically, airport campaigns are a significant driver of foot traffic, with 84 percent of frequent fliers likely to visit a restaurant, 50 percent likely to visit a clothing/accessories/jewelry store and 41 percent likely to visit a consumer electronics store.

The research report also confirms that active dwell time increases advertising exposure with 74 percent of frequent flyers arriving at the airport over an hour before boarding. Seventy-nine percent of frequent flyers shopped for food/beverages, 67 percent dined at a restaurant, 51 percent shopped for travel accessories/technology products/entertainment and 29 percent shopped duty-free. Additionally, 87 percent of frequent flyers spend time on their mobile devices while waiting for their flight with 36 percent visiting a website to find out more about products/services seen in an airport advertisement.

“This study confirms that airport advertising creates significant brand awareness and sales by helping advertisers reach highly coveted audiences such as the affluent frequent flyer and the key business decision makers around the world,” said Morten Gotterup, President of Clear Channel Airports. “At Clear Channel, our partnerships with major airports throughout the country foster some of the most influential, innovative advertising programs that enhance travelers’ experiences at the airport. We are excited about the opportunities ahead of us to work with brands on fun, experiential and impactful campaigns that build awareness and drive sales.”

Commenting on their recent VW van display campaign in Austin-Bergstrom Airport in January, Lyft Marketing Manager Will Lindow said, “I’ve always been a fan of disruptive marketing…something that interrupts the routine flow of a person or space and provides an authentic experience/moment with the brand. So I thought why not a giant pink VW in the middle of baggage claim, right?!”

Additional key survey findings show that 90 percent of frequent flyers are likely to dine/shop/visit brick and mortar locations after learning about them at the airport. 36 percent are interested in signing up for/learning about e-commerce services while at the airport. About half (48 percent) are interested in learning about travel rewards programs and one-third are interested in signing up for travel rewards credit cards while at the airport.

The study’s findings come on the heels of Clear Channel Airports (CCA) successfully closing on a series of impressive wins for the organization. Since 2015, CCA has announced significant new partnerships and concession renewals to provide comprehensive media programs with advanced digital capabilities to airports, including, Washington Dulles International Airport, Reagan National Airport, Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport, Punta Cana International Airport, Austin Bergstrom, Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport, Nashville International Airport, Honolulu International Airport and Santa Barbara Airport. Other major airport partnerships include Chicago O’Hare and Denver International — two of the nation’s Top 5 busiest airports.

The proprietary Nielsen Airports Study, conducted from August 8 through 18, consisted of 1526 online survey respondents and was conducted on behalf of Clear Channel Airports.

Global Workplace Trends

Sodexo released its 2018 Global Workplace Trends report, featuring fresh insights to global workforce leaders and decision makers. The report highlights the most critical factors affecting the future of work and demonstrates how an improved workplace experience is key to increasing companies’ performance and leads ultimately to better employee engagement.

Recognizing the increasing presence of robotic and artificial intelligence in the workplace and daily life, the trends outline the ways that the development of individual and collective human intelligence will guide the impact of technology on life. 

Since 2012, our Global Workplace Trends report has provided an important perspective on the future of many different types of workplace environments, spanning the globe. Our insight as one of the world’s largest global employers and our deep connection to consumers’ needs provide us with a unique perspective to recognize and analyse how the quality of life of individuals at work impacts the performance of organisations,” said Sylvia Metayer, CEO, Worldwide Corporate Services segment. “By understanding and anticipating these trends, we can more effectively help our clients plan what lies ahead, by experimenting and implementing human-centred and experience-based solutions.”

This year’s report focuses on seven interconnected topics with an overarching unifying theme: the need for collective intelligence across all workplace domains. The featured 2018 Sodexo Workplace Trends includes: 

  • Getting ready for Gen Z: With high expectations around technology and flexibility, while paying close attention to well-being and quality of life, Gen Z is reshaping the workplace in new and exciting ways for all generations.
  • The Internet of Things: shaping the future for workplace: IoT-supported workplace environments are an opportunity to operate and engage businesses and employees in a more effective manner by improving comfort in physical spaces, flexibility, precision in the process and ultimately quality of life for everyone.
  • Creating the emotionally intelligent workplace: Emotional intelligence has become a core skillset for high-performing organizations and leaders today. The workplace itself can be emotionally intelligent – by allowing people to bring their full spectrum of emotions to work, and aligning their fundamental human needs and motivations.
  • Re-imagining resources in the sharing economy: Forward-thinking organizations are redefining their business models to leverage the benefits of the sharing economy
  • Moving the needle of gender balance: To create a gender intelligent workplace, companies must examine the barriers that are holding back women and implement a cultural transformation driven by inclusive leaders.
  • Human capital management 3.0: Human Capital Management (HCM) 3.0 is bringing all the different technologies and programs (learning, recognition, wellness) together to transform the work experience into the life experience. HCM aims to enhance the employee experience and help organizations perform at their best.
  • Employees: New change for corporate responsibility: Employees are now key stakeholders when it comes to shaping CR strategies. It is important for companies to give their workforce a voice, enabling them to feel fulfilled—while working toward a better future for all.
Canadians and Food Bank Use

To launch its Feed the Hope campaign this year, Catelli recently commissioned a new study to uncover Canadians’ thoughts and perceptions of those who use food banks. The research, which aims to shed light on the face of hunger in Canada, found that one-in-five Canadians have used a food bank in their life.

“Many Canadians think they know the kind of person who uses a food bank,” says Claire Labrom, Brand Manager, Catelli® pasta. “The harsh reality, however, is that hunger doesn’t discriminate and affects people you’d least expect – your neighbours, colleagues, classmates, and friends.”

Shockingly, more than four-in-ten Canadians don’t believe there is a food crisis in Canada, yet, nearly 20 per cent know someone who uses a food bank regularly. In fact, over 850,000 people across the country turn to food banks for help each month; and more than one-third are children and youth.1

The Catelli Feed the Hope study also found that there are many misperceptions surrounding food bank usage in Canada:

  • The Food Crisis is Real in Canada: One-in-three Canadians would turn to a food bank if they experienced sudden money problems (33 percent) or a lost job (30 percent).
  • A Hungry Generation? Millennials (age 18-34) are significantly more likely to turn to a food bank after experiencing sudden money problems or a lost job.
  • Reasons to use a Food Bank: One-third (34 percent) of Canadians believe poor money management is the top reason people use a food bank, while one-in-five (21 percent) Canadians believe the top reason people use a food bank is because they are taking advantage of “the system”.

A parent’s top priority is the wellbeing of their children – and providing them with a good, balanced diet to set them up for a happy, healthy life. Unfortunately, not all parents in Canada can afford this lifestyle and sometimes, sending their kids to school with little to no lunch, or an empty stomach is a reality that many face. No parent wants to send their child to school without healthy fuel for their day; yet, one-in-four (26 percent) Canadians perceive seeing a child with an empty lunch box as a sign of bad parenting.

Other regional stats from the poll showed that one-third (33 percent) of Manitobans/Saskatchewanians believe a parent who does not provide their child(ren) with lunch at school is a lazy parent; one-in-four (25 percent) Ontarians believe a parent who does not provide their child(ren) lunch at school is a bad parent; and one-third (34 percent) of Atlantic Canadians believe a parent who does not provide their child(ren) lunch at school is a parent not invested in their child(ren).

“Hunger in Canada is far more prevalent than many of us think,” says Sarah Watson, Director of Community Engagement at North York Harvest Food Bank. “Food banks across the country are working hard to make sure that families can keep food on the table, even when times get tough. Catelli’s generous donation will make sure we can provide healthy, wholesome food to those who need it most.”

Online Grocery Shopping Adoption

Adoption of online grocery shopping is moving at a slower pace than other consumer categories, but it’s growing with about 10 percent of U.S. consumers now regularly buying groceries, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Although there are more consumers buying their groceries online, they haven’t jumped all in. Nearly all online grocery shoppers (99 percent) still shop in brick and mortar grocery stores.

Consumer preferences when shopping for foods and beverages and logistical challenges are the primary reasons why consumers haven’t gone all in on online grocery shopping. Wanting to pick out their own fresh items was the top barrier to their shopping online for groceries, followed by not wanting to pay a delivery fee. Many consumers (46 percent) who are lapsed online grocery shoppers or have never shopped online like that walking through a store remind them of what else they need. And, even though one of the key benefits of online shopping is speed, 46 percent of consumers who aren’t online grocery shopping enthusiasts feel it’s faster to go to the store, reports NPD.

The benefits of online grocery shopping, like not needing to leave home, price comparisons, speed, and not having to wait in lines are enough for a growing number of consumers to be enticed, but not enough to get them to do all of their grocery shopping online. Groceries may in fact follow the same path as other categories, like electronics, where consumers still want to see the item up close and personal. Like electronics, often the answer is in an omnichannel approach, which many of the major grocers are now offering.

“With major brick and mortar grocery stores announcing click & collect and various speedy delivery options, the line between physical and online is blurring and, as a result, consumers are getting the best of both worlds,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “There is also a place for pure-play ecommerce grocers but it looks like, as of now, consumers want a seamless experience between brick-and-mortar and e-commerce.”    

Organic Spice Market

Global Organic Spice Market is expected to surpass USD 40 billion by 2024; according to a new research report by Global Market Insights, Inc. Rising awareness among consumers regarding the medicinal properties and health advantages of natural spices consumption will primarily drive the industry growth. Shifting preference towards chemical free ingredients owing to their notable health benefits including anti-inflammation and pain-relieving properties is expected to propel the organic spice market growth.

The increasing preference for international cuisines and gourmet products have enhanced the natural ingredients demand particularly for flavouring applications. Since the product is usually sold at premium prices, its demand can boost the export revenue in the countries with its high production over the coming years. However, higher price trend and low shelf life may hamper the organic spice market growth.

The industry has witnessed huge investments from the government as well as private investors that paves opportunistic ways for the market participants to increase profitability. Various countries are making various efforts to increase the consumption of naturally grown food by expanding land for its cultivation and enabling favourable regulations.

Garlic is expected to showcase dominance in organic spice market, generating more than 2.5 million tons by 2024. High revenue generation is attributed to rising demand for flavouring agents in numerous domestic and international dishes across the globe. Proliferating demand for various applications such as culinary, RTE and savory foods will further support the industry dominance.

Ginger will exhibit over 6 percent CAGR from 2018 to 2024 owing to its high usage in processed food industry. High consumer preference due to its indigenous medicinal properties coupled with high rising demand from numerous variants including ginger bread and premium sauces will drive the organic spice market growth.

Culinary contributed for dominating share accounting for over 30 percent of the organic spice market in 2017. Regular usage of ingredients including garlic, ginger, coriander, and chilli for preparing numerous cuisines along with their benefits will contribute significantly towards the revenue generation. Snacks and convenience foods will witness notable gains in forecast period owing to their rising consumption, especially among millennials across the globe.

Asia Pacific organic spice market is expected to value more than USD 15 billion by 2024. Substantial production across the region, particularly in Vietnam, India, and China will support the industry demand. The region witnesses presence of established and high-yielding agricultural practices, that result in high quality products, further driving the industry growth. Europe will exhibit growth over 5.5 percent from 2018 to 2024 owing to rising production across the region owing to the increasing consumer preference towards the product.

The competitors continuously focus on engaging in R&D and implementing strong promotional events to spread alertness among the consumers. Some key participants in the industry include Sapthsathi Agriculture Project, Earthen delight, Organic Spices, Rapid Organic, Frontier Natural Products, Plantrich and Yogi Botanicals Private Limited. They are focused on producing premium quality products by using modern technologies. This helps in retaining the quality of the product and food safety standards.

Cash is King in Singapore

Despite a well-developed electronic payment infrastructure, cash remains a dominant payment instrument in Singapore with 58.7 percent of transaction volume made at POS terminals in 2017, according to leading data and analytics company GlobalData.  

In addition, more than 75 percent of transactions made at hawkers and wet markets are carried out in cash. This can be primarily attributed to the limited acceptance of electronic payments among small-sized merchants such as street vendors, food stalls and hawkers due to the high cost associated with POS terminals.  

Singapore has for a long time been at the forefront of the payments innovation. Acceleration of electronic payments in the country has been one of the key objectives of the government’s Smart Nation Vision and in this regard, the country has invested substantially in building long-term infrastructure for cashless payments. Overall, the POS terminal penetration (number of POS terminals per thousand inhabitants) in Singapore stands at 35, compared to its Asian peers: Australia (39), Hong Kong (22), Japan (18), China (21), Indonesia (4) and India (2). In Singapore, card-based payments accounted for 32.8 percent of total payment transaction volume in 2017, increasing from 24 percent in 2013. 

Singapore has a very high concentration of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). According to the Department of Statistics, Singapore, there were 220,100 business enterprises in the country in 2017, with 99 percent of them being SMEs. To encourage adoption of electronic payments among SMEs in particular, the government along with other payment participants is increasingly considering QR-based payments as a viable alternative for cash. 

Kartik Challa, Payments Analyst at GlobalData, said, “The economic rationale for QR codes is stemmed from the difficulty banks had in persuading smaller merchants to begin accepting payment cards. The QR-code based payment acceptance eliminates the need for a significant expenditure, as merchants can now either display a printed QR code on their stall or download the merchant app on their mobile phones to accept electronic payments.” 

In November 2017, the Singapore Payments Council announced the development of a common standard for Singapore Quick Response Code (SG QR) payments, designed to work across all schemes, e-wallets and banks. Unlike the existing NETS QR system, which focuses on domestic market, the new system will accept electronic payments through both domestic and international payments. The SG QR, developed by an industry taskforce co-led by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Infocomm Media Development Authority, will be deployed throughout 2018. Furthermore, as part of the process, the existing NETS QR will also be integrated into the new system and will be replaced with SG QR at all merchant locations. 

Singapore’s banks have also agreed to update their mobile payment apps/wallets to support SG QR. To expand the scope for SG QR, the Association of Banks in Singapore agreed to bring in banking P2P service –PayNow under the purview of SG QR. All seven participating banks of PayNow service, Citibank Singapore, DBS Bank, HSBC, Maybank, OCBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and United Overseas Bank – enable their customers to transfer funds via SG QR. 

Challa concluded: “The SG QR system is an important milestone, and to win over merchants, payment solution providers need to support the large number of e-wallets, offer quick payment settlement process and pricing benefits. Similarly, incentivizing consumers is a key factor to pique consumers’ interest in the new payment system. With the SG QR making a good headway, cash payments in Singapore are likely to soon become passé. Once again Singapore is at the forefront of innovation in payments, and other markets in Asia and globally are likely to follow the suit.”