The Popularity Of ‘On The Go’ Foods Makes Me Sad
3:30 pm, November 12th | by Sarah Devlin
There’s a fascinating article in AdAge on the way the food industry is changing, as baby boomers with empty nests exhibit the same amount of brand loyalty but buy less food, while younger shoppers will go anywhere and try anything, but remain frustratingly elusive to marketers.
From the article:
“New Convenience Items Balloon Food Sales,” stated an Ad Age headline in 1960. What was all the excitement about? Frozen meals, cake mixes and instant potatoes — foods that by today’s standards would be considered a bit of a hassle. We are now living in a yogurt-and-snack-bar world, where the fastest-growing foods are those that often require little or no preparation. “We’re looking for how to make life easier,” said Harry Balzer, an analyst with NPD Group, which follows food trends. “We don’t want to change the amount of time we spend eating. We want to change the amount of time before and after.
Indeed, of the 10 fastest-growing in-home foods and beverage categories over the past decade, only two are routinely heated (pizza and pasta), while the rest are pretty much open-and-eat, such as nuts and chips, according to NPD. Even staples such as soup and cereal — once considered easy — have lost momentum to items that can be scarfed down on the go.”
Foods that are easier to prepare than instant potatoes and cake from a box? I know we’re all very busy, but doesn’t that seem a little…sad? The ensuing description of already syrup-flavored Eggo Wafflers and the unholy marriage of hash browns and a breakfast burrito that is the Tater Stuffer is even more depressing (although I would probably try one of those Tater Stuffers at least once). The larger problem, though, is that consumers end up paying more (and dealing with more packaging and waste) for “convenience,” when they could be saving so much money (seriously, SO MUCH) by learning a couple of basic food prep tricks and putting together simple meals and snacks on their own. I mean, I’m a busy person who eats 90% of my lunches at my desk and isn’t independently wealthy and I still find the time to make myself something with recognizable ingredients and pick up a fork.
The whole piece is well worth reading, and includes some nifty infographics about the ways that consumers’ spending habits are changing. There’s also an interesting discussion of the “foodie” movement, which has risen parallel to the Go-Gurt and Luna bar-consuming masses, and is also influencing brands’ efforts to entice their customers to keep coming back. But I kept returning to the idea that the new model for eating is buying food that’s “natural but also convenient.” I thought we had come up with a way to satisfy both of those needs already, and it was with the one-two punch of “regularly going to the grocery store” and “preparing food at home ahead of time (even if you don’t involve a single pot, pan, microwave or oven).”
Perhaps I’m just being a bad millenial.