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Ten big trends to watch for in 2011


What's an end-of-the-year e-newsletter from Canadian Grocer like without our list of big trends to watch for in 2011? That would be like Christmas without the figgy pudding. We're not claiming these 10 points are the definitive trends for next year, but we do think they are the most interesting to watch.

1. A more humane burger. The last year saw retailers and seafood companies launch sustainable fish harvesting practices. But with Whole Foods recently announcing it will test an animal welfare rating system, expect the spotlight to turn to how cows and pigs are treated before being turned into beef-kebabs and spare ribs. Whole Foods system, by the way, will rate producers based on animal comfort, health, time spent on a pasture and whether it grew up on only one farm.

2. Ingredient lists customers can’t miss. Food manufacturers are already trimming the unpronounceable ingredients from their products. As more cut them out entirely, they’ll promote the fact by listing the ingredients on the front of the package. The poster child for this trend is "Five" ice cream, whose five ingredients are all on the front label. Also expect more products to be touted as “simple” or “natural.”

3. Grocery stores? There’s an app for that. Years from now we’ll realize that the biggest technological shift in the last half century wasn’t the Internet. It was the smartphone. The iphone in particular is revolutionizing how people do everything, including how they shop. Expect more grocers to develop their own iPhone apps. Take Food Lion, for instance, whose new app lets users view weekly specials and coupons, get alerts about new products and events, and, of course, manage their shopping lists. Then there's Loblaw's new iPhone app

4. The decline of the great Canadian shopper. Did you read that article in the news recently about soaring household debt? Canadians owe $1.48 for every $1 of disposable income we have. Gosh, that's even higher than what debt-riddled American consumers owe. Eventually we're going to have to start kicking our debt habit. Trouble is, with little to no growth in incomes consumers will need to make some sacrifices. That means spending less on indulgences and watching every penny. (Oh, and this trend will speed up if the Bank of Canada starts to raise interest rates,)

5Sustainability fatigue. It’s not that consumers won’t be happy with retailers' and manufacturers' sustainability efforts. It’s just that after four years of being hammered over the head with green messages from every car company and oil company out there, consumers are going to start tuning them out.

6. A return to foodservice. We know consumers are in a saving money kind of mind. Yet, they’re still time-starved. Smack those two consumer insights together and you’ve got a great idea for grocers: Promote home-meal replacements as a better-for-you value option to grabbing a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The smartest grocers, such as Wegmans in the U.S. and Farm Boy in Ottawa, are promoting meals by price. So, for instance, Wegmans is giving customers a three-dish meal to take home for six dollars.

7. The ethnic shopper gets noticed. What was it that respected grocery industry analyst Perry Caicco wrote recently in his report on the ethnic grocery market in Canada? The rapid change in the ethnic makeup of the Canadian consumer has reached a "tipping point of sorts, and many mainstream and consumer companies seem to have been caught unprepared." Caicco pegged the ethnic grocery market as worth more than $4 billion in Canada. In 2011, expect grocers and CPG companies to pay more attention to ethnic consumers, the fastest growing shopper segment in this country. Period.

8. What is local, anyway? Savvy consumers will question the rather vague term “local,” which right now can mean anything from the farm around the corner to the farm on the other side of the country. Retailers and manufacturers will have to redefine the term to match business realities with consumer expectations that their “local” tomato didn’t spend three days bumping along on a transport truck. And watch for the same debate to start over that other vague food marketing term: “natural.”

9. Smaller, faster, slightly more upscale. Expect grocers to continue tweaking stores layouts with more upscale boutique departments around fresh. New stores will also be smaller to cater to aging boomers and busy shoppers.

10 Packaging with bling. Did we mention this one last year? If so, not enough manufacturers paid attention. So let’s go over it again: Customers charging their carts down the supermarket aisles don’t notice most products. To get attention, you’re going to have to do a better job with package design. That means more dynamic labels, bold letters, stylish containers and artful photography. Really, don’t make us have to put this on the list for 2012.

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