As consumers across demographics become busier and look for more convenient options in the food and beverage space, it is no surprise that snacking accounts for an increasing number of eating occasions. In fact, the average consumer eats about 2.6 snacks per day, and 41% of consumers snack three or more times per day, according to Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader of snacks for IRI. Snacks are now available to consumers in their homes and on the go, restaurants are putting more small items on their menus and more than 40% of people consider snacks to be an important part of a healthy eating plan, she said during a recent webinar.

“It’s another indication that snacks are playing multiple roles for consumers,” she said.

One of the most profound trends in the snacking industry today is the role millennials will play in the continued growth of the category, a panel of experts said during the webinar. (read more…)

Amid the low-carb craze and fervor for gluten-free items, bread and other bakery products have managed to find a foothold with premium formulations that offer great taste, health benefits from whole grains and an artisan feel that appeals to today’s consumer.

Consumption of bread and baked goods has been on the decline, but dollar sales of in-store baked goods rose steadily from 2008 to 2010, mainly due to higher prices, according to a 2013 report on in-store bakeries from Packaged Facts.

“U.S. consumers remain fixated on health and wellness across virtually all product categories, and in-store bakery goods manufacturers have responded with products that are healthier but still indulgent and tasty…Whole wheat, whole grain and multi-grain products have proliferated, and manufacturers continue to use ingredients that both deliver benefits many consumers have to come expect, and help differentiate one product from another,” consultant Tom Pastre wrote in the report.

This trend is echoed in the packaged breads sector, which has seen consumers cutting back on white breads and seeking out whole grain and multi-grain options. (read more…)

This post is sponsored by TraceGains.

Penny Marsh, global director of regulatory compliance at Sensient Flavors & Fragrances, recently completed her second master’s degree — a Master of Jurisprudence in Global Food Law from Michigan State University — when she decided she needed a new challenge. So, she is learning to play the violin through instructional videos she watches on her iPad.

“I like to be challenged and like to learn, so I said, ‘Why not take up an instrument?’” she explains.

That attitude serves Marsh well in her role at Sensient, which requires constant learning as she researches food-labeling regulations in countries around the globe.

Sensient, based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., supplies a range of ingredients used to make packaged food products and other goods, and Marsh is responsible for making sure those products receive the correct label that adheres to regulatory standards. Those labels can include: allergens, kosher, halal, organic, vegetarian, free from genetically modified ingredients and other key product attributes. (read more…)

Descriptions including “craft”, “small batch,” “custom,” “limited edition” and “artisan/artisanal” are more likely to influence the purchasing decisions of millennials than they are to sway older consumers, according to a recent Harris Poll. Chefs and restaurateurs are finding ways to feed the trend — the Culinary Institute of America will hold a Crafting Beer and Food Summit in October, bringing together master brewers and chefs to create menus that complement craft beers.

Millennials are driving much of the growth, as they seek out local, authentic and artisan beer, as well as wine and spirits, said NPD Group Vice President Warren Solochek. The trend in food and beverage in general is toward healthier options, but “healthy” means different things to different people, and in the case of beer, wine and spirits, local and artisan are much more relevant to millennials than calorie counts, he said.

“It’s more true of millennials than others, but it’s also catching on with those of us who are a little older chronologically,” Solochek said. (read more…)

Site selection for restaurants is a delicate balance of art and science. Twenty-plus years ago, when I started my career as director of construction for one of the country’s largest restaurant franchisees, site selection primarily fell into the “art” category — we had a few basic criteria such as traffic counts, ABC classifications and general community demographics, but after that we relied on our instincts and experience. Today science has taken over, as smart brands increasingly rely on the incredible troves of data points — both big and small — that now exist on market conditions, customer preferences, demographics, even where a potential customer was five minutes before they arrived in the drive-thru.

The risk of “paralysis from analysis” is real, however, as our team looked to expand our South Florida-based Pollo Tropical brand into Texas, we identified target markets based on several factors: consumer acceptance studies of the brand offering, supply chain efficiency, operational span and the number of stores needed for media efficiency. (read more…)