Shoppers are driving the food marketplace more than ever before, according to IDDBA’s report. America is witnessing an era of unprecedented engagement with what we eat and a concurrent shift in how we eat. Information and inspiration about food is in our hands through search, social media and mobile devices. Healthy eating is now widely accepted as the foundation to health and wellness. The new American appetite has changed from bland and familiar to new, interesting and flavorful.

According to the most recent US Census, 28 percent of US households are single-person households. Only another 28 percent of households have children under the age of 18, and for the first time ever, the majority of babies in the US are non-Caucasian. Today, 53 percent of primary shoppers are women, with moms comprising 22% of primary shoppers. Even within traditional families, the work of shopping and cooking is increasingly negotiated and managed between parents who both work outside the home. Almost half (47 percent) of primary shoppers are men.

Evolving shopper food needs can be better understood within the context of increasing diversity and fragmentation of the American household and mealtimes. Portion size, level of cooking assistance, type of foods and cuisines, freshness expectations, and other drivers of at-purchase choice in the fresh perimeter categories must be tailored to a differentiated shopper base, beyond mom. Shoppers who live alone or as a couple are looking for smaller portions sizes and easy-to-prep ingredients. Ethnically diverse shoppers and adventurous foodies are looking for a wider selection of ethnic or global items.

The future is bright for fresh perimeter departments: bakery, deli and cheese. According to The NPD Group, consumption of fresh foods in the US has grown by 20 percent to over 100 billion “eatings” (occasions) over the past 10 years. And during that time, the largest incremental growth in “fresh” was sourced from breakfast.

As people age they are more likely to consume fresh foods; however, the largest momentum occurs from young adults to the age of 40, followed by slower increases thereafter, according to NPD.

Using the fresh food aging curve, population changes, and other proprietary modeling elements, NPD forecasts eatings of fresh foods will continue to grow at a rate faster than US population growth of 4 percent by 2018. NPD projects fresh food consumption to grow by 6 percent from 2013 to 2018. Breakfast (up 9 percent) and lunch (up 7 percent) will be the key drivers for this growth.

Understanding preferences by generation and how they change over time is important for developing strategies for future growth, according to NPD. For instance, the top 10 fresh foods favored by Generation Z in America for 2013 included the following:

  • Chicken
  • Eggs/omelets
  • Potatoes
  • Bacon
  • Hot dogs