Monday, October 26, 2009

"Fresh" Food Trumps All - 5 Ways to Be "Fresh"

The buzzwords are flying as food marketers look for new ways to appeal to still-stingy consumers. A recent report by Hartman Group found that “the picture is no longer black or white; it is a colorful mosaic where organic and/or natural intersects and overlaps with attributes such as local, fresh, sustainable, safe, green, quality, lack of additives and many more.”

Personally, I’m a big fan of “local” — it communicates a human dimension that I find msising from today's increasingly homogenous shopping world. When it comes to food, our research with consumers in August shows that the main benefit of local is that it's more likely to be fresher.

Consumers told us:
“Local foods are fresher and you are helping out your economy locally”

“(When local) there is less chance that they have been processed or preserved with mystery chemicals”

“Locally grown means that it takes less than 3 hours to get to me. Means the food is fresher and travels less (fuel, energy) to get to me.”
In fact, it turns out that what most consumers are really looking for when they say they prefer locally grown produce or locally raised meat is fresher food. So, the appeal of “local” is that it delivers on “fresh.”

Consumers not only prefer fresh, they are shifting their behavior and buying more fresh food in grocery stores and restaurants. Increasingly, they shop for that day’s needs and are not interested in food that requires defrosting. The explosive growth of farmer’s markets is one example of this shift.

When it comes to fast food, only “value” beats “fresh” among consumers as a reason for choosing one restaurant over another. We found that “fresh” also is the most compelling reason for trying a new menu item at a full-service restaurant. Restaurants of all types have noticed, and menus are shifting to emphasize fresh ingredients. McDonald’s is enjoying success with its fresh messaging.

Chipotle's reputation for food integrity and freshness has made it the No. 1 casual restaurant among Millennials. Our research showed that three out of five 20 to 24 year olds in California visited Chipotle in the past year, the highest penetration of any casual restaurant chain. Chipotle’s Millennial penetration in California is twice what it is among older age groups.

What’s a food, grocery or restaurant brand to do? Here’s a starter list of ways to be fresh:
  1. Location: Be available where consumers are shopping for fresh meat and produce – specialty stores, butcher shops & farmer’s markets — or allude to them in the menu.

  2. Packaging/Signage: Allow consumers to see through the package to the good food and ingredients inside. For restaurants, conjure freshness through signage

  3. Ingredients: Minimize processing and eliminate unnecessary ingredients. Pursue sustainable practices (and let customers know).

  4. Message: Credibly link to ‘fresh taste.

  5. Target: Millennials, mothers and Food Channel watchers.
The move to "fresh" is an opportunity for food, grocery and restaurant brands to connect to a powerful, positive trend. Find your voice and get the word out.

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