Perhaps the only modern-day phenomenon that’s more striking than people strolling down the street while using cell phones is the ubiquity of food. It’s everywhere – inside Ikea and Nordstrom, fresh from Amazon.com, delivered to your car in rush-hour Manhattan traffic.

Increasingly, food culture and technology converge in ways that are not strictly about purchasing: People share pictures of meals on Facebook and gain inspiration for recipes and ingredients on Pinterest. They use Twitter to interact with chefs and favorite brands. Date night sometimes means a couple sitting at the same table gazing into their smartphones.

These are markers of a revolution in the way people think about eating — and they mean huge changes for food marketers who are used to focusing on consumers’ wants and needs. Going forward, the most successful food companies will pay attention more to what people are actually doing with food, how they play with it and what meals and snacks they make — all activities anchored by the digital world and far different from the “need states” marketers traditionally study. (read more…)

What makes a truly great sandwich? It’s no small question — sandwiches are big business, both for restaurants — Subway, the largest QSR chain in the world, has over 42,000 locations — and retail, with nearly 90% of consumers report eating a sandwich within the past week, the majority eaten and prepared at home.

For our upcoming MenuTrends Keynote on sandwiches, we wanted to know what consumers were already eating, what they were interested in trying, and how that compared to the sandwiches that operators were menuing. We asked over 1,000 consumers for their thoughts on a wide range of sandwich options, flavors, trends and ingredients, uncovering preferences and motivations with direct implications for both operators and consumers. We combined this with operator data on purchases and brand preferences, and leveraged the power of MenuTrends, our trend-tracking menu database, for this one-of-a-kind series that comprehensively explores topics and categories central to the industry. (read more…)

Today’s consumers expect fine-dining menus to boast locally sourced ingredients and change with the seasons, and now the locavore trend is fueling changes at less-pricey fast-casual chains such as Mad Greens, Salata, Sweetgreen, and Tortas Frontera by Rick Bayless.

Fast casual continues to grow, even as overall restaurant traffic has remained flat for more than five years, according to recent NPD Group data. A key trend driving that growth is the rising demand for fresh ingredients, and the willingness to pay a premium for them. And, if the food is locally sourced and comes with a backstory, so much the better.

Colorado-based Mad Greens has increased the amount of locally sourced items on the menu in recent years, and there’s a strategy for expanding that when the 13-unit chain expands beyond the Centennial State’s borders, said founders Marley Hodgson and Dan Long. “The plan is to have a dedicated portion of the menu that’s local specific,” Hodgson said. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by Kellogg’s. Find out how more about this revolutionary study, and how its detailed findings can benefit your business.

Morning is when millions of people eat away from home. But today, how A.M. consumers make their morning food choices and purchases is dramatically different than how they’ve previously decided what to eat. Now there are a myriad of variables that affect how people choose their first meal. These include:

  • An unlimited variety of foods available in the morning, at quick-serve restaurants, convenience stores, coffee shops and more.
  • More finely segmented demographic groups including employed vs. retired, urban vs. suburban, stay-at-homes vs. business travelers.
  • Changing attitudes about the definition of morning “meals.” A relaxing sit-down breakfast could be considered a meal to one, while a protein bar and cup of coffee is an equally satisfying option for someone else.

Because eating behaviors have such a large effect on the foodservice industry, Kellogg’s examined what motivates those who eat away from home in the morning. (read more…)

 

Sodium reduction is a hot topic in the foodservice industry as manufacturers and restaurateurs look for ways to cut sodium without sacrificing flavor or shelf-life. SmartBrief spoke with Anita Jones-Mueller, president and chief executive officer of Healthy Dining about the company’s latest research on sodium reduction and how restaurants can make menus healthier while keeping customers satisfied.

Healthy Dining recently released research on sodium reduction in restaurants. What did you find?

We found some very interesting results! Healthy Dining received funding from the National Institutes of Health through the National Cancer Institute to launch the first ever wide scale study looking at the sensory effects — and customer satisfaction — of simply reducing amounts of high sodium ingredients.

Healthy Dining’s registered dietitians and research team worked with four well-known restaurant chains. We reduced the amounts of high-sodium ingredients, such as salt and seasonings, sauces, spreads and cheese, in several popular menu items and tested the flavor profiles of the menu items with more than 1,200 frequent restaurant customers. (read more…)