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With the ushering in of a new year comes educated forecasts for what we can expect to be disruptors or trends in the industry. One such list that just came out is the SPINS “Top 10 Trend Predictions of 2018.” SPINS, a leading provider of retail customer insights, analytics and consulting with a focus on the natural, organic and specialty products industries, has pinpointed what they believe will shake up the retail landscape this upcoming year. Expect to see adaptogens (non-toxic and safe herbs and mushrooms that are specifically found to reduce stress, both mental and physical) as ingredients in the form of functional beverages and foods. Look out for the more controversial cannabidiol (CBD) as well in some sort of supplement form or as an ingredient in food and beverages (it can even be found in chewing gum!), despite the battles over its legality (while as a marijuana extract it is illegal, manufacturers are circumventing that issue by deriving it from hemp, which is legal under the Farm Bill as long as it does not exceed 0.3 percent THC by dry weight). With its popularity as a functional ingredient and supplement in bone broths, sports nutrition and skin care, collagen is another ingredient you’ll start seeing show up everywhere. Look for it in more untraditional places such as protein bars and creamers. With 2018 being the Year of the Dog in Chinese astrology, it is only fitting that I also mention that one of their trend predictions for the year is an “elevated indulgence for pets,” meaning that consumers are expected to see a significant increase in better-for-you pet treats.  This comes along with the clean label and human-grade ingredient trend that has been changing the pet industry in recent years. Among the healthier pet treat options, look for an increase in prebiotic (and prebiotics blended with probiotics) in these items, a trend that is also parallel to a predicted prebiotic trend in humans as digestive health becomes more of a concern for people and for their beloved four-legged friends.

Other trends on the list include FODMAP (an acronym for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols, which are short-chained carbs and sugar alcohols that can create digestive distress for some people) diet-based foods, nootropics (compounds meant to enhance brain function), and sweet treat alternatives featuring pulses (referring to the ground up seed of a legume such as a bean or lentil) – all which indicate a movement towards more healthful foods.

To download the complete list of SPINS trend predictions, go to: http://www.spins.com/2018-trend-predictions/.

Diet Coke is getting a makeover. As we know, Coke fans are diehard and resistant to change (remember the New Coke debacle and epic failure of 1985?), but after the successful reformulation of Coke Zero to Coke Zero Sugar last August, the Coca-Cola company is emboldened enough to update the beloved Diet Coke. But for those of you who think it is perfect the way it is, have no fear. The change is only cosmetic to the flagship beverage, and for those who are open to a little variety, there will be some new options added to the lineup with the addition of four new flavors: Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango. The cans, meant largely to appeal to Millennials, are skinnier and streamlined in look much like Red Bull and other popular energy drinks. “Millennials are now thirstier than ever for adventures and new experiences, and we want to be right by their side,” said Rafael Acevedo, the group director for Diet Coke in North America. “We’re making the brand more relatable and more authentic.” The company spent two years developing new flavors and packaging, testing more than 30 new Diet Coke variations.  The beverage giant could really use another win with this new rollout since sales of the zero-calorie soda has been on the decline. The diet soda category as a whole has dropped 34 percent since 2005, and coupled with the soda tax that is popping up from city to city, the company certainly has an uphill battle to fight.

LG, announced three new concept robots, once of which is designed to aid customers in a supermarket setting. The concept robots were being showcased at this year’s annual global consumer technology CES trade show in Las Vegas. The robots were meant to demonstrate the potential of South Korean electronics company’s new AI platform, ThinQ. However, grocery store employees shouldn’t start their new job search just yet, since the LG home robot CLOi failed at its unveiling during the keynote speech of LG’s US marketing chief, David VanderWaal.

Maybe, though, the supermarket work force shouldn’t get too comfortable just yet as both Walmart and Kroger are exploring options to run stores without customers interacting with a cashier. Walmart is launching a new service called “Scan and Go” which is expected to be in almost 200 locations by the end of 2018 while Kroger recently unveiled its “Scan, Bag, Go” platform that will be in 400 stores later this year. Both services allow shoppers to use either their mobile devices or handheld scanners provided at the stores to scan their items as they shop. The concept seems very similar to the handheld scanners introduced a few years back at the Ahold USA banners, including Giant Food and Gian/Martin’s. One thing is certain though – as Amazon is infiltrating the market, retailers are rushing to advance their technologies, so they are on an even playing field before the e-retailer’s bricks and mortar stores (not including Whole Foods, of course) deluge and upset the whole retail landscape.

Speaking of Gian/Martin’s, their signature holiday Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals fundraising campaign raised $700,244, a seven percent increase over 2016. The annual in-store Candles for Kids campaign was conducted from November 12 to November 25. Company support for local CMN Hospitals has amounted to more than $42 million over the past 21 years.  The retailer is one of the top 10 fundraisers in the country for CMN, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children’s hospitals across North America. In addition to the twice a year in-store campaigns, associates also regularly volunteer at CMN Hospital events, including radio and television telethons.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Safeway Eastern and Hormel for donating 1,092 Hormel Cure 81 half hams to food banks last month in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Florida and the District of Columbia to help feed those in need during the holiday season. “Hormel Foods and Safeway are proud to support hunger-relief efforts in the Washington metropolitan area,” said Stephanie Postma, brand manager of meat products marketing for Hormel Foods. “The Hormel Cure 81 Hams for Hunger program highlights our long-standing relationship with Safeway, and we are honored to work together and make such a substantial contribution for those in need.” The Hormel Cure 81 Hams for Hunger program, which was started in 1986, involves a partnership between Hormel Foods and grocery retailers across the country. Throughout the years, more than $13 million dollars in hams have been donated, feeding tens of thousands of families.

And before I sign off, I just want to let our readers know that we at Food World and our sister publication, Food Trade News are celebrating a milestone this year – 40 years! Be on the lookout for our retrospective special section coming out this April commemorating this anniversary which will feature some industry blasts from the past. It will definitely be a must-read!

Until next month…