To hear Hudson Riehle, Senior Vice President, Research & Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association, speak is to be optimistic about the future of the restaurant industry. I recently had the pleasure of hearing Riehle speak at the Restaurant Innovation Summit in Atlanta. He showed the attendees charts that presented American eating habits and the greater and greater shift toward “food away from home” rather than “food at home” — in other words, getting food from restaurants rather than getting food at grocery stores.

In fact, for the first time, the restaurant industry and grocery industry in the U.S. are nearly neck and neck, each with about $700B in annual sales (each approximately 14% of the $5T retail industry). In years past, the grocery industry far outpaced the restaurant industry. But restaurants have been making strong progress and have pulled even. If one extends the trendline into the future, it is clear that restaurants will become the majority recipient of what Riehle refers to as “the food dollar.”

This shouldn’t be terribly surprising to us. (read more…)

At the end of each year, the team at Datassential releases our list of the trends to watch in the upcoming year, leveraging our extensive data from services like Datassential’s MenuTrends, the industry’s most accurate and trusted menu database, and combining it with our expert insight and passion for food trends. Last year we covered everything from European cuisines like German and English to beverage trends, including craft sodas and mocktails. In the past we have tracked mini desserts (2014), sweet potato (2007), and adult grilled cheese (2011). And now we are proud to release our trends to watch in 2015 — and this year it helps to think big.

Big changes

In the year ahead, major changes will continue to disrupt the entire food industry. Segment melding continues to blur the lines between traditional industry concepts, from fast casual, which combined the speed of fast food with options often found at casual or midscale concepts, to chef casual, where fine dining techniques and authentic flavors are showcased in more affordable and approachable ways. (read more…)

Loyalty programs are not a new concept in the world of retail, but, like today’s customer base, they are in a critical state of flux in the current digital era. Both for retailers looking to create loyalty programs from scratch and for those looking to adapt existing programs to appeal to shifting consumers, engaging today’s connected consumer is key, and developing engaging programs was the topic of a session at National Retail Federation’s BIG Show this week in New York.

According to Caroline Papadatos, senior vice president of international corporate marketing at Loyalty One, there has been an “explosion of channels” recently among consumers. She noted during the session that smartphones are often the first thing consumers pick up when they wake up in the morning and the last thing they put down before they go to sleep at night, and it is the responsibility of retailers to make sure that they let that kind of behavior shape their loyalty programs. (read more…)

E-commerce is rapidly emerging in the food and beverage industry, whether you’re talking about restaurants adopting mobile payments or online grocery delivery services that will bring food right to your doorstep, but wholesale club retailing is one category that has not been so quick to adopt e-commerce and digital technology. While retailers like Costco and Sam’s Club are well-established in the retail industry, shoppers don’t often associate them with online shopping. But is that changing?

It very well should, according Tim Reay, head of grocery at e-commerce digital agency Salmon.

“[Omnichannel retailing] is currently an area which we believe is underexploited by the wholesale industry and we believe that it’s ripe for expansion,” he said. “Those who don’t adapt to this growing trend in the industry risk losing out to digital-savvy competitors and an ever-growing army of suppliers who are looking to supply goods direct to consumer through e-commerce.”

One reason wholesale retailers are well-positioned to adopt e-commerce and omnichannel retailing, Reay said, is because their customers are already online. (read more…)

Coffee prices fluctuate with supply, but a severe drought in Brazil and a fungus called coffee rust in Central America have taken a toll on crop yields, sending coffee bean costs soaring this year with the expectation that they’ll go even higher in 2015.

A report earlier this year from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia predicts that climate change will bring more of the same in the future. Arabica bean prices rose at least 72% this year, and they’re likely to continue climbing in 2015, according to Citi Research.

Total global supply is on track to rise 1.5% this year compared to 2013, but it’s the second year of a supply deficit, according to a report by Rabobank earlier this month. And the hit comes as coffee consumption around the globe continues to rise, driven in large part by Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts expansions into new markets, and the expansion of quickservice coffee programs like McDonald’s McCafe line. (read more…)