MRM Research Roundup: End-of-December 2018 Edition

This end-of-the-year edition of Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine's Research Roundup features news on restaurant readiness, takeout and off-premises trends, "Barista Wrist" and other restaurant worker injuries, top venues and Canadians love for bacon.

Restaurant Readiness Index

Managers want to make their customers happy. That was easily apparent in the lastest edition of the  Restaurant Readiness Index, the last in a series from Bypass, PYMNTS and Bank of America Merchant Service. The problem? They often don’t know what makes customers happy. 


In the third Restaurant Readiness Index, they found that customers had big appetites for technology innovations, with 62 percent of QSR and fast casual customers even saying new tech makes them  more likely to visit restaurants in the future. That was after our first two editions where we tracked how technology was being adopted across 178 QSR and fast casual chains. While some chains ended up at the top with high adoption of new and alternative payment methods, self-service kiosks, cloud POS, and other features to drive customer experience, the average score was still 38 out of 100 in 2017 and increased only .7 points in 2018. 

In this report, they took a look at restaurant managers and owners for insight into the disconnect between the buzz around tech and slow rollout of that tech. What we discovered is that, much of the time, managers think customers don’t like tech. For example, 65 percent of managers think apps to place orders are a good experience, compared to 91 percent of customers. We saw this pattern for not just ordering, but also pickup and payment method. And they also disagree on what technology will bring customers back, with a 44.4 percent gap between self-service kiosks.

That’s not to say that managers and customers disagree on everything. 80 percent of both groups have a positive view of kiosks, everybody loves credit cards, and they both cite speed and convenience as the most major things tech should accomplish.

Finally, along with customer experience, they looked at other factors causing restaurants to invest in (or avoid) technologies, including non-customer facing tech like kitchen automation systems. They cited reasons like price and their own satisfaction with their current systems for avoiding tech—while also underestimating the revenue increases some of those technologies would bring. 

Top Fast Food Brands

Altogether, the top eight fast food brands in the US are worth $229 billion, an increase of 5 percent since last year, according to the latest BrandZ ranking for 2019 by WPP and Kantar Millward Brown.

At $125 billion, McDonald’s is the fast food brand with the highest brand value and is the seventh most valuable brand in the country overall. Moreover, McDonald’s accounts for more than 50 percent of the fast food category’s total brand value on BrandZ. 

The fastest growing fast food brands, however, are KFC at #50 (up 22 percent from last year to $15.8 billion brand value) and Burger King at #94 (up 20 percent from last year to $6.6 billion brand value). Both are legacy brands that saw their market shares erode as fast casual restaurants emerged in the past decades, but they are coming back thanks to smart digital campaigns and a renewed focus on their heritage.

Here are all eight fast food brands on the 2019 US BrandZ: McDonald’s (#7), Starbucks (#20), Subway (#46), KFC (#50), Domino’s (#77), Pizza Hut (#85), Burger King (#94), and Chipotle (#100).

Takeout and Off-Premise Trends

Consumers who are relying more heavily on delivery than in the past report a net increase in the number of orders they are placing overall, according to the 2018 Takeout & Off-Premise Consumer Trend Report. For operators, this may ease concerns with regards to the potential cannibalization of dine-in or carryout occasions.

"Among those who have increased their usage of takeout since 2016, ease of use with regards to mobile apps and websites is increasingly cited as a driving force behind this," says Bret Yonke, manager of consumer insights at Technomic. "Moving forward, look for third-party delivery companies to seek out greater brand loyalty from consumers by offering subscription-based packages that provide exclusive perks beyond simply waiving delivery fees."

Additional key takeaways from the report include:

  • 30 percent of regular takeout users (those who order carryout or delivery at least once a month) say they typically purchase more food when ordering carryout versus dining in 
  • Up to 43 percent of regular takeout users are willing to pay extra for eco-friendly packaging 
  • 78 percent of all delivery orders are placed directly through restaurants versus third-party delivery companies

Compiling findings from more than 1,450 consumer responses, the 2018 Takeout & Off-Premise Consumer Trend Report serves as a guide for foodservice operators and suppliers to discover the opportunities, challenges and consumer attitudes regarding takeout and off-premise in the United States.

Restaurant Worker Injuries

Injuries to restaurant workers cause employees to miss an average of 30 days from work, according to claims data analyzed by AmTrust Financial Services, Inc., which released the first “AmTrust Restaurant Risk Report” with key insights based on more than 84,006 claims from 2013 to 2017 by the company’s restaurant clients with loss payments. 

Injuries varied across restaurant types and ranged from just a few days to over a year of time lost for certain injuries, including Barista Wrist suffered by coffee shop workers. Additional highlights include:

  • Cuts, punctures or scrapes make up a third of restaurant claims reported;
  • While sharp objects cause the most reported claims, falls and slips resulted in $198.4 million in claims paid, 4.5 times more in paid losses than for cuts, punctures or scrapes
  • Cafés and coffee shops yield the highest lost time – on average 45 percent more time lost than all other restaurant types;
  • Wrist injuries are the biggest danger for coffee shop workers, with Barista Wrist resulting in an average of 366 days to return to work;
  • The average lost time due to restaurant injuries varies from less than four days to nearly two months;
  • The states with the highest average lost time are Vermont, New Jersey, Indiana, Mississippi, and Idaho while the states with the lowest average lost time were Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota, Wyoming and Washington; and
  • Barbecue restaurants have the highest days lost for “strains from lifting” with an average of 65.9 days out.

“Employee safety is a priority and, in this competitive environment where restaurants are vying for qualified employees, it is difficult when accidents and injuries cause time away from work,” said Matt Zender, SVP and Workers’ Compensation Product Manager for AmTrust. “We felt that it was important to identify commons claims across the industry and offer suggestions to help restaurant owners protect their business and employees from work-related accidents.”

Zender added, “Our data supports the increasingly accepted belief that the repetitive stress injury known as ‘Barista Wrist’ is a very real condition as wrist injuries accounted for the most days of work missed.”

AmTrust’s data also indicated that restaurant claims increase in the summer months, which is peak season for many restaurants, with roughly four to five percent more employees on staff in June, July and August compared to other months. Similar to past years, July was the highest month for claims in 2017, with 13 percent more claims than an average month.

NRA Top Food Trends

Alternative sources of protein, locally sourced meats and seafood, more veggie-carb substitutes, and globally inspired breakfast options are a small sampling of the smorgasbord of food trends the restaurant industry will be serving next year.

According to National Restaurant Association new research, expect to see more plant-based sausages and burgers, new cuts of meat, including oyster steak, Merlot cut and Vegas Strip Steak, plus ethnic-flavored breakfast items, like shakshouka, the egg-and-tomato-sauce dish, in 2019.

The findings are a part of the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot survey, a barometer of food and beverage trends at restaurants around the country. The results forecast food, beverage, and culinary concept trends for the year ahead. The annual survey looked at the responses of approximately 650 professional chefs – all members of the American Culinary Federation.

“Plant-based alternatives, veggie-carb substitutes, and globally-inspired menu items – already popular in consumers’ own homes – are now poised to ignite sales at restaurants and foodservice operations,” said Hudson Riehle, the Association’s senior vice president of research. “It’s no secret restaurant customers seek new food experiences when dining out. Chefs are listening to that request and offering them the foods they want. That’s good for guests and business.”

Here is what the majority of chefs said about some top food trends for 2019:

  • More than 69 percent of chefs said globally inspired breakfast would be the year’s top food trend.
  • Some 67 percent of respondents indicated that new cuts of meat would once again be among the top food trends, like last year.
  • Approximately 64 percent of chefs pointed to plant-based sausages and burgers as a top food trend.
  • More than 60 percent identified local meats and seafood as hot items, and
  • Three out of five chefs said veggie-carb substitutes would emerge as new alternatives to traditional starches.

The complete 2019 What’s Hot survey results will be available in early January.

Most Booked Venues

Tripleseat revealed the most booked venues in the top four cities in the United States for 2018. The list showcases the most popular restaurants and unique venues in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco.

Tripleseat services over 5,000 restaurants, hotels and unique venues to help increase event sales and streamline the planning process. The software is used by over 41,000 event professionals on a daily basis. 

The data from Tripleseat revealed that Lucky Strike, Planet Hollywood, WhirlyBall and Pinstripes were among the most booked venues across the cities listed, proving that customers are interested in more than only food, and prefer an experience. The top booked venues according to Tripleseat are as follows: 

New York City

  • Monarch Rooftop & Indoor Lounge
  • Lucky Strike Manhattan
  • PS 450
  • Planet Hollywood New York
  • Carmine's Times Square 

Los Angeles

  • Fundamental LA
  • Lucky Strike LA Live
  • NeueHouse Hollywood
  • Buca di Beppo Farmers Market
  • The NoMad LA


  • WhirlyBall Chicago 
  • Lucky Strike and For the Win Chicago
  • Pinstripes – Chicago
  • Yolk
  • City Winery Chicago

San Francisco

  • Lucky Strike San Francisco
  • Wise Sons
  • San Francisco Giants/AT&T Park
  • Original Joe's – North Beach
  • Galvanize San Francisco SOMA

"Events make up over 30 percent of a restaurant’s revenue, so it’s increasingly important for event managers to have a web app like Tripleseat that enables them to communicate with planners seamlessly,” said Jonathan Morse, CEO of Tripleseat. “We found that the trend among the top booked venues this year were ones that offered an experience, or hosted corporate or networking events. It’s apparent that party goers want to have an enjoyable experience overall that doesn’t just include food and beverages.”

Top Trends in Foodservice Packaging

The 10th annual Trends Report from the Foodservice Packaging Institute identifies that the two greatest trends in foodservice packaging are the push-back on single-use products, regardless of material, and that delivery continues to be one of the biggest sales drivers for the foodservice industry. 

“The results from this year’s Trends Report reflect the consumer climate. Leading this is the current drive against single-use products. This, of course, conflicts with the need for foodservice packaging to meet the increasing demand of foodservice establishments offering delivery services to its customers,” said Lynn Dyer, FPI’s president.

Respondents say that delivery offerings have elevated the importance of single-use foodservice packaging. The reasons are three-fold. First, it keeps the hot foods hot and cold foods cold as it’s delivered. Second, the package protects the food inside once in transport, leading to greater use of tamper-evident packs. Third, it creates the only opportunity to promote a foodservice brand when the customer doesn’t interact with the brand itself, often using third-party apps to order. 

Another top concern noted by respondents is market intervention. Whether through bans or tariffs on foodservice packaging, government intervention in the marketplace is a constant pressure point for the supply chain.

Respondents also say that there will be a greater reliance on e-commerce and technology. Foodservice distribution is increasingly moving from personal relationships with distribution sales representatives to online orders. Or, it involves cutting out the distributors altogether and relying on Internet vendors for foodservice packaging.

Now in its milestone 10th year, the Trends Report is FPI’s response to dozens of requests received throughout the year from media, analysts, conference organizers and others about the latest industry happenings. The FPI survey collected opinions from companies throughout the foodservice packaging supply chain, including raw material and machinery suppliers, packaging manufacturers, distributors and operators. 

The first section of the report compiles direct comments and insights by industry players. The second section provides high-level trends in the foodservice packaging industry based on FPI staff analysis of member submissions, as well as FPI’s general industry observations and newsletter entries. 

A Seasonal View

Technomic released a new report entitled “A Year in Review: Measuring Restaurant Performance by Season" that takes a deep dive at each season to see why certain restaurant segments lead and how to procure restaurant visits at different times of the year.  The report contains few ideas on how restaurant operators can increase foot traffic during off-peak calendar months, below.  

Ideas for full-service restaurants to increase foot traffic in spring and summer include: 

  • Offering smaller, lighter and more shareable bites
  • Promoting non-alcoholic beverages and cocktails

Ideas for limited-service restaurants to increase foot traffic in fall and winter include: 

  • Starting autumn and winter promotions early, towards the end of summer, so consumers likely come back through the colder seasons
  •  Launching back-to-school specials, enticing families to visit

To compile this report, Technomic partnered with GroundTruth, a location platform that leverages data and insights to drive business performance.

Restaurants 'Near Me'

Uberall, Inc., revealed the results of its holiday ‘near me’ survey. For the study, Uberall polled more than 1,000 smartphone users across the US and UK between December 7 and 11 to understand their “near me” preferences and behavior over the holiday season to date. 

Over three-quarters of shoppers have done a “near me” holiday search

Almost 80 percent (79 percent) of all shoppers say they have already used a ‘near me’ search from their mobile device over the holiday season,or believe they will before the New Year. In contrast, 21 percent have not done this type of search so far, and don’t anticipate doing so this holiday season.

Broken down between US and UK shoppers, ‘near me’ searches were more prevalent in the US. Over the holidays, 83 percent of US shoppers have searched ‘near me’ while 75 percent did so in the UK. 

“Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research places before they shop and are prioritizing proximity when doing so,” said Florian Huebner, Founder & Co-CEO of Uberall. “Marketers must leverage a search strategy that lures shoppers who may not be directly seeking them out and are, instead, looking for the same category near their location. Whoever shows up first in search will win the customer dollars. This rings especially true during the holiday season, with people in general doing more shopping — and spending more money — than any other time of year.”

30 percent of holiday shoppers left a review of a brick-and-mortar store online

Our study found that nearly one-third (30 percent) of shoppers have left a review of a brick-and-mortar store across sites — such as Yelp, Facebook, Google, Foursquare, Instagram and more — during the holiday season. Meanwhile, 71 percent of respondents have not.

In the US, leaving a review online for a store or location was more common than in the UK. Among US holiday shoppers, one-third had left a review versus 26 percent in the UK.  

“We know from our previous research that only 45 percent of shoppers leave online customer reviews overall,” Huebner said. “This presents an issue for brands as 68 percent of customers admit that customer reviews make a difference in their purchasing decision, according to Moz. 
A lack of reviews can easily be correlated with lost revenue meaning that companies must start investing in strategies that encourage customers to take the time leave online reviews.”


Almost three-quarters do “near me” search for restaurants, half for nearby ATMs

71 percent of respondents said they were likely to conduct a ‘near me’ search for the nearest restaurant (quick-service or fast-food) while out holiday shopping. Just 15 percent said they were unlikely to do a ‘near me’ search, and 14 percent were unsure.

When asked how likely a shopper was to conduct a ‘near me’ search for the nearest bank or ATM while holiday shopping, 51 percent said they were likely, while 34 percent were unlikely and 16 percent said they weren’t sure.

In the US, holiday shoppers were more likely to conduct a ‘near me’ search for restaurants (77 percent) than UK shoppers (66 percent). The US also led on ‘near me’ searches for nearby banks or ATMs (54 percent versus 46 percent). 

“During the holiday season, ‘near me’ search is huge for QSR and fast-casual brands, as well as banks and credit unions,” said Huebner. “It’s important for these areas to understand why ‘near me’ is so important. In order to acquire new customers, these places must improve their search ranking to be among the first results that location-focused consumers see.”


80 percent of holiday shoppers will use phone to compare prices 

When asked how shoppers will use their smartphones to help them shop during the holiday season, the top 5 responses globally were: Compare prices (80 percent), buy directly from the device (79 percent), research products (72 percent), check for store hours (71 percent) and search for coupons and deals (65 percent).

“No matter how you slice it, mobile is the key to the holiday shopping season,” Huebner said. “From ‘near me’ for brick-and-mortar to comparing prices, shoppers this time of year will rely heavily on their mobile devices to make their shopping experience easier over the next couple of weeks.”


Just How Much Canadians Love Bacon


It's no secret that Canadians love bacon, but a new survey shows just how deep that devotion runs. In celebration of National Bacon Day on Sunday, December 30,  duBreton® – an all-Canadian pork specialist at the forefront of Certified Humane® and organic pork production in North America – conducted a survey among Canadians who like bacon† to reveal how deep is their love.

  • Can't buy the love: More than half (54 percent) say it would take $1 million or more to agree to giving up bacon for life, with 25 percent proclaiming that they wouldn't give up bacon for any amount of money! 
  • Canada's national food: 98 percent say bacon is among their favourite foods. Close to half – 45 percent – list it in their Top 10, and another 14 percent say bacon is their All-time Favourite Food. The love of bacon is strongest among Millennials with 20 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 naming bacon as their #1 favourite food. 
  • More sizzle in the frying pan than relationships: Surprisingly, eight percent of bacon-liking Canadians confess to liking bacon more than their spouse. In Ontario, this number jumps to a jaw-dropping 47 percent.

Other sizzling stats conclude:

  • 28 percent like bacon more than their in-laws 
  • 40 percent favour bacon over their cell phone 
  • 30 percent prefer bacon to their job 
  • 27 percent like bacon more than New Year's Eve 

And, nine percent of those surveyed love bacon more than all of the above.

  • Looking for the perfect hostess gift: 42 percent of those surveyed would rather receive perfectly cooked bacon to a bottle of wine. Bacon is also preferable to other common hostess gifts with 42 percent choosing bacon over a candle. 

The duBreton survey also revealed what most attracts Canadians to bacon. Turns out, bacon offers a multi-sensory experience. Not surprisingly, 86 percent cite taste as the top reason we love bacon, followed by aroma at 78 percent, and crispiness at 62 percent. 

Global Coffee Machine Sales

Global coffee machine sales are likely to reach 58,675 thousand units in 2019, growing at over 4 percent over 2018, according to a Fact.MR study. As coffee machines gain prominence in traditional as well as non-traditional coffee drinking markets, the growth trajectory of the market will witness a steady rise. The evolving demand trends in the coffee machine market can be attributed to:

  • Dissemination of knowledge regarding coffee varieties and coffee making processes among consumers
  • Growing palate for specialty beverages including coffee 
  • Intelligent innovations by coffee machine industry titans 
  • Mushrooming of F&B and coffee shop chains 

Fact.MR study finds that drip coffee machines will account for nearly 43 percent of the total coffee machine sales in 2019. Easy operation, simple design, and quality brewing are the key factors responsible for the significant demand for drip coffee machines. Fact.MR also finds that a good price point of drip coffee machine is another reason that maintains the machine's popularity.

While drip and steam coffee machines continue to be lucrative, sales of capsule-based coffee machines are expected to increase over 5 percent in 2019 against the backdrop of increasing preference for specialty coffee varieties among consumers.

Semi-automatic coffee machines will continue to find favor in the future on the back of advantages of human control, affordable price and many other multimodal factors. The study finds that semi-automatic coffee machine sales will surpass 27,000 thousand units in 2019. On the other hand, sales of automatic coffee machines are rising rapidly as consumer preference for convenience, speed, quality and brand image continues to evolve.

In the automatic coffee machine marketplace, disruptive innovations are being introduced that cover consumer sentiments for taste as well as convenience. Single unit and one touch for a cup of coffee, options of personalization and features of convenience in the form of mobile application-based control are few of the intelligent innovations recently introduced in the market.

Fact.MR says that cafes will continue to register higher sales of coffee machines for an evident reason of being an indispensable unit in cafes as compared to other F&B stores. According to the valuation, three in ten coffee machines were sold to cafes in 2018 and the status quo will continue in 2019. Restaurant will report the second largest sales of coffee machines.

Among all the end uses (hotel, restaurant, café, institutional and residential), after café, sales of coffee machine are expected to rise rapidly in the residential segment. Consumer propensity to enjoy specialty coffee flavors and to experience convenience at home can be attributed to rapidly rising sales of coffee machines in the residential sector.

The study estimates that online sales channels are preferred over retail or direct sales channel for the distribution of coffee machines. In 2019, the number of coffee machine units sold through online sales channel will be over four units in ten. Retail channel is estimated to follow the trail wherein sales of three in tebn units were estimated.

North America and Europe continue to present significant demand for coffee. Fact.MR study finds that North America will continue to register significant demand for coffee machines and account for over two-fifth of global sales in 2019. 64 percent of Americans consumed a cup of coffee daily in 2018, according to the National Coffee Association survey. Further, demand for caffeinated beverages is rising whereas soda and juice market witnessed a decline.

Fact.MR shows that Europe registered the second largest demand for coffee machines in 2018 and the trend is likely to continue in 2019 with one fifth volume share in the global market.

Culinary Trends for 2019

Say hello to ugli fruit and miso ice cream in 2019. From exotic fruits and herbs to plant-based proteins, Sodexo's director of culinary development,Kevin Cecilio predicts the top trends based on his work with Sodexo's thousands of chefs around the world. Cecilio oversees culinary innovation for Sodexo USA, which serves millions of meals daily, focusing on creating fantastic food through culinary excellence.

"Many of these trends bring new flavors and culinary experiences to our guests, who would not normally find yuzu or caraway flower in their local grocery stores. Diners want to try new dishes, especially because of the variety of food they see on social media every day. They are very aware of what they are eating and where it originates. They want to try ingredients that wouldn't have been on their radar previously," said Cecilio.

Cecilio's picks for 2019 food trends encompass a number of ingredients that satisfy consumers' demands for more plant-based options. These include:

Fermented foods: Featuring interesting flavors and textures along with a number health benefits, fermented foods continue to top the list of food trends in 2019.  "Building on last year's rise in popularity, we are now seeing the fermented food trend move beyond traditional foods into cocktails, sauces, snacks and even frozen treats," said Cecilio.  His examples include kombucha cocktail mixers, miso dressings, hot sauces and kefir breakfast items. 

Seeds: Adding a crunchy, delicious texture to everything from salads to soft cheeses, seeds are no longer what gets thrown away.  Roasted, tossed into soup, even mixed with chocolate to make a healthy dessert, Cecilio views seeds as one of the biggest trends for the coming year. "Seeds provide healthy, omega-3 oils and protein. Their popularity is on the rise as an ingredient in everything from high-end restaurants to snacks. They are a great option for people with food sensitivities or those who maintain a vegan diet," said Cecilio.

Nuts: With the popularity of the keto and paleo diets, nuts have become more than a bar snack, especially macadamia, pecans andBrazil nuts.  High in protein and healthy fats and low in carbs, their size makes them a great food to eat on the go.

Exotic citrus: The coming year looks to bring bright citrus flavors from exotic fruits such as kumquats, pomelos, yuzu, ugli fruit, bergamot and meyer lemons.  These fruits, which were often only found in specialty stores, are becoming more accessible.  For example, yuzu is an essential ingredient in ponzu sauce, and pomelo, which can be found in drinks and desserts.

Lemon Verbena, Savory and Caraway Flower: These three herbs poised to become household names in 2019. The Savory herb has a pungent flavor and pairs well with slow cooked meats, beets, eggs, potatoes and tomatoes.  Lemon verbena provide a lemon flavor and are often used for light marinades, dressings, even chicken and fish dishes. It can even take the place of actual lemons in teas. The seeds and leaves of the white caraway flower provide a flavorful addition to a variety of foods, including bread, cheese, cakes and sausage. The leaves can even be cooked like spinach or used in salads.

Transparency Trends

Label Insight revealed the top three trends for 2019 based on the consumer mandate for transparency. As discovered in a recent study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), shoppers are demanding greater transparency and a closer connection to their food. Seventy-five percent of consumers are more likely to switch to a brand that provides more in-depth product information, beyond what's provided on the physical label. That sentiment is driving significant changes through the food retailing industry.

Grocery Retailers Will Take the Reins of Health and Wellness

An increasing amount of grocery retailers are creating transparency-driven in-store and online experiences focused on delivering better health and wellness information to the consumer. Label Insight is tracking more than 30 retail health and wellness programs in their Explore platform, and expects that number to continue to grow. In 2019, retailers will move beyond health and wellness as brand positioning by leveraging new approaches to data and omnichannel integration. This data will be used to power shelf-edge, in-aisle, marketing, promotions and online tools that help consumers make personalized choices at the individual product level. Shelf-edge and in-store icon programs from leaders like Raley's and Target are the leading edge indicators of what will become the new default setting for grocery shopping experiences.       

Category Management Will Be Reimagined to Include Product Attribution

Shoppers in today's marketplace demand convenience, personalization, and transparency and they are more knowledgeable than ever before about their purchases. Many shoppers want to know exactly what a food item is made from, where an item is sourced from, and increasingly the business practices and ethical positions of the manufacturer before deciding to purchase. One of the keys to delivering on these shopper needs is correct product attribution. In 2019, we'll see product attribution evolve beyond existing category taxonomy approaches to include consumer driven transparency attributes in the management process. Brands that provide high-order attribution will build trust with shoppers and experience market share and revenue increases even in categories with flat or declining sales.

Better User Experience Will Drive Grocery E-commerce Growth

A recent eMarketer report claims that in 2019 more than one in five adults will use a grocery app to order food at least once a month. It also notes that while online grocery sales represent less than three percent of all U.S. e-commerce sales, it is one of the fastest-growing categories. Grocery has been considered the golden goose because of the return visit nature of grocery shopping and the potential to develop loyalty through those visits. And although there are many unique logistical challenges to grocery e-commerce, the biggest challenge seems to be developing a user experience that truly reflects and solves the complex needs of today's customers — the ability to easily find products according to one's specific needs. In 2019, we'll see more powerful search and filtering capabilities based on key attributes power the next wave of growth. These data-driven capabilities will need to meet three important criteria to drive the market forward: accurate, comprehensive and consistent.

"Time and time again consumers have made themselves clear that they want to better understand what's in the products they use and consume and they are willing to vote with their wallets," said Patrick Moorhead, chief marketing officer at Label Insight. "The need for transparency is driving dramatic shifts in the food retail industry that impact how business as usual is done for both brands and retailers. In response, we've spent the last decade developing proprietary technology with the aim of helping the industry meet these particular challenges and to master the next wave of innovation. 2019 will be a dynamic year of change and growth."

Top 10 Superfoods for 2019

We've heard of the ketogenic ("keto") diet, fermented foods, non-dairy milks and plant proteins, but what do they all have in common? They are some of the hottest food and nutrition trends to look for in 2019, according to dietitians surveyed in the 7th annual Pollock Communications and Today's Dietitian "What's Trending in Nutrition" survey.  With 1,342 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) responding, the survey divulges what leading RDNs predict consumers are thinking and eating. While fermented foods hold steady as the #1 superfood for 2018 and 2019, some surprising newcomers have made the list, including beets, blueberries and non-dairy milks. And in a shocking switch, RDNs predict that a "healthy" label will begin to surpass cost and taste when it comes to consumer purchase drivers. A not-so-surprising trend dietitians report is the rise of keto as the most popular consumer diet, ousting clean eating from last year's top spot, with intermittent fasting making its debut as #2. It's clear from these predictions that consumers are on the hunt for a flat belly and will take extreme diet measures in their pursuit.

"It's not that "clean eating" has declined in popularity," says Jenna A. Bell, PhD, RDN, SVP of Pollock Communications. "We are still seeing the consumer push for cleaner labels and the industry continues their work to deliver it. But what's different here is that millennial consumers are going beyond eliminating a food group, like cutting gluten, to making more drastic changes that require real lifestyle adjustments." Dr. Bell explains that this movement reflects a greater recognition of the importance of what we eat. She says, "it's beyond food is medicine; now food is the core of wellness."             

RDNs predict fermented foods – like yogurt, Kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi and miso – will continue to be highly sought after by consumers in 2019, likely for their powerful benefits from boosting gut health to blunting inflammation. Kale has fallen off the top 10 list, with non-dairy milks nabbing the #10 spot. This underscores the rise in popularity of plant proteins and finding plant-based swaps. Other superfood list newcomers, beets and blueberries join this list of dietitian superfood predictions for 2019:  

  • Fermented foods, like yogurt 
  • Avocado 
  • Seeds 
  • Ancient Grains 
  • Exotic fruit, like acai, golden berries 
  • Blueberries 
  • Beets 
  • Nuts 
  • Coconut products 
  • Non-dairy milks 

"Plant-based eating has been a major focus in the dietetic community," says Jenna Bell, RDN, "Now, consumers are hearing this message and it's what they want." This is apparent in the growth of seeds, nuts and non-dairy alternatives. The supermarket milk case has gone from cow to soy, rice, almond, coconut, walnut and oats! Consumers are fulfilling their health and protein needs with a diverse number of dairy and non-dairy products.     

To Eat or Not to Eat – That is the Trend

Consumers realize that what they eat affects how they feel, and based on the trends reported, RDNs think that consumers are looking for diets that primarily drive weight loss. As RDNs predicted, keto was a diet trend to watch in 2018, and it has soared in popularity. RDNs agree the keto craze will continue in 2019, with consumers significantly reducing carbohydrates, grains and sugar in favor of vegetables, animal fat and meat. According to the survey, RDNs believe the next big diet – or lack thereof – will be intermittent fasting, with clean eating coming in as third most popular.  

"We have witnessed a progression in consumer demand for "health" and "clean" throughout the seven years of our survey, and as millennials have been moving into their 30's," says Louise Pollock, President of Pollock Communications. "We have seen the food industry respond by changing their strategy from a taste, cost-driven approach to one that appeals to these powerful health and wellness-seeking consumers."

Choose Wisely – 'Healthy' Holds the Halo

One of the most interesting findings for 2019 is RDNs predict that consumers will be more concerned about the healthfulness of food products than the cost and taste when making purchasing decisions. Healthfulness has hovered near the top 3 purchase drivers in recent years, but it's notable that for the first time it has moved up to the #2 spot, reinforcing the demand for better-for-you food choices. Convenience remains a steady stronghold at #1, with cost and taste at the #3 and #4 spots, followed by natural, organic and gluten-free. 

Advice from the Experts – RDNs Know Best

According to RDNs, Facebook is still the #1 source of where consumers receive nutrition misinformation, followed by blogs and Instagram. And celebrities and friends/family remain the top sources of who consumers get nutrition misinformation from. But when in doubt, RDNs feel that it's always best to ask the experts – RDNs – who agree that consumers should eat more servings of vegetables per day and increase fiber intake, which helps promote a healthy gut and improve overall well-being.

"RDs are experts at predicting trends because they consistently know what to expect from consumers," says Mara Honicker, publisher of Today's Dietitian. "Their trustworthy nutrition knowledge educates and improves consumer wellness, and their insights drive the future of food in industry and public policy."