Friday, June 12, 2020

Summer Inspiration Series: Formulating for the Class of 2020

Photo source: Krispy Kreme

The “Summer Inspiration Series” of Friday blogs is all about stepping out of our comfort zone in terms of innovation. Why not? We’re already operating in an unprecedented manner. Some blogs may explore new concepts in “other” food and beverage categories and discuss how they may apply to dairy, others may focus on new consumer behaviors and brainstorm on how dairy foods processors may respond in coming months.

Congratulations to the Class of 2020…the new norm generation. Their lives have been turned completely upside down and are forever changed. They are the customer to focus on.

My heart goes out to all parents who have been celebrating graduations through video streams and drive-by commencement ceremonies. That’s on my family’s plan this weekend when my youngest graduates from high school. Congratulations!

In the past few months during quarantine, curfew and boredom, these young adults had to grow up quickly. Their eating habits have changed. Marketers of all types of products have taken note and are adjusting their offerings and their business to better appeal to this demographic.

It’s no longer Millennials and Gen Z. They are the 2020ers.

Over the next few years while we entertain a recession, their discretionary spending money will be used carefully. It’s time to revisit your business’ learnings from the last recession and adjust accordingly. But, take note, as a society we have changed tremendously over the past decade in terms of our eating habits.

This week the International Food Information Council (IFIC) published its 2020 Food & Health Survey, which was conducted between April 8 and April 16, about one month into the COVID-19 mayhem. The survey showed that 85% of Americans have made at least some change in the foods they eat or how they prepare food.

Among the 85% who have made any change, 60% of Americans report cooking at home more. Respondents also said they are snacking more (32%) and thinking about food more than usual (27%). Consumers under age 35 are most likely to have made changes, both in terms of healthier and less healthy choices. These changes will likely continue as we move forward.

Hindsight is 2020 (as compared to 2010)
Taste and price remain the top factors for purchase decisions, and while there has been movement year to year in the degree to which purchase drivers impact consumers, the comparison of 2010 results to 2020 shows almost no change. Yet, Americans have a different view of themselves and their own evolving purchasing decisions: 54% of all consumers, and 63% of those over age 50 care more about the healthfulness of their choices than they did in 2010.

According to consumers reflecting on their own habits over the past year, 28% are eating more protein from plant sources, 24% are eating more plant-based dairy and 17% are eating more plant-based meat alternatives. Those following a specific diet or eating pattern are huge drivers of these numbers: 41% of dieters say they increased consumption of protein from plant sources (vs. 18% of those not following a diet) and 28% say they eat more plant-based meat alternatives (vs. just 9%).

MORE THAN 50% VIEW DAIRY AS HEALTHY! Also, the number of consumers who view animal protein as healthful has increased. These are important figures to act on. It is paramount that the industry sell the healthfulness of dairy foods.

Fewer Americans are avoiding sugars this year, although it is still a very common practice: 74% are trying to avoid or limit sugars, compared to 80% in 2019. The top ways they are doing so is by drinking water instead of caloric beverages (60%) and limiting consumption of certain foods and beverages (42%). The most popular reasons people avoid sugars include not wanting extra calories (46%), believing that sugar is unhealthy (42%) and thinking it helps them lose or maintain weight (40%).

A “natural” label is most influential both when shopping and when purchasing food prepared outside the home. The Class of 2020 is likely reading more about food and making purchase decisions on product claims.

In my opinion, this is one of the most interesting findings from this year’s survey: Consumers perceive health differences in products even if they have the same Nutrition Facts Panel. Telling them the product is “all natural” does matter. Short ingredient lists, no artificial ingredients and use of familiar, traditional manufacturing technologies are all associated with perceived healthfulness of foods.

The 2020 Food & Health Survey provided an opportunity to examine some of the more significant trends in food attitudes and behaviors since 2010. The factors with the most influence on food-purchasing decisions, tracked by the survey, have remained relatively stable over the past decade, with taste consistently dominating the list, followed by price, healthfulness, convenience and sustainability (specified as “environmental sustainability” since last year).

Nearly 6 in 10 consumers say it is important that the food products they purchase or consume are produced in an environmentally sustainable way (similar to the 54% who said the same in 2019). Four out of 10 (43%) consumers also say it is important that a food manufacturer “has a commitment” to sustainability and 40% say the same about knowing food was produced using farming technologies that seek to reduce the impact on natural resources.

America’s Dairy Farmers Celebrate 2020 Graduates
In case you missed what the U.S. dairy industry did to celebrate the Class of 2020, a few weeks ago on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Fallon announced a pizza giveaway funded by America’s dairy farmers and executed by Pizza Hut. Together, they gave away half a million pizzas to graduates and their families. We enjoyed ours! Thank you.

“Our brand has a long history of celebrating moments that matter--like graduations--and Pizza Hut takes pride in being a part of our customers’ big days. So, it’s only natural that we’d be there for students and their families to help celebrate the accomplishments of the graduating class of 2020,” said George Felix, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut. “We’re proud to partner with America’s hard-working dairy farmers to bring students who are missing out on their chance to cross the stage with their diploma, an opportunity to celebrate with their favorite Pizza Hut pizza.”

Marilyn Hershey, a Pennsylvania dairy farmer and chair of Dairy Management Inc., said, “America’s dairy farmers have great appreciation and respect for the hard work that graduating students have put in and nothing celebrates that better than cheese and pizza enjoyed with family and friends.”

And in closing…two great quotes for our graduates.

“Never show up late with a coffee in your hand. The message when you do that is, you are not as important to me as this iced vanilla latte.” Jimmy Kimmel

“It’s natural that you may be worried about the future, what’s on the other side of this pandemic, but know that your generation is equal to this moment, and to the unprecedented opportunity for change that is coming. Before any great creation, there will always be chaos. Now go find your new order in it.” Stephen Colbert

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