August 2014 Emerging Trends

This month: pizza preferences by gender, consumers ignore sodium intake and cereal price projections.

Consumers show little concern over sodium intake

We keep hearing we consume too much sodium. Schools are being forced to slash the salt in meals, and the USDA is preparing to issue voluntary guidelines regarding sodium for food manufacturers and restaurants. But do consumers care about their sodium intake? Not really, according to new research by The NPD Group, which found that U.S. consumers are less concerned about their sodium intake, and their consumption of foods with a low-sodium or no-salt label is declining and will continue to drop in the future. “People are paying less attention to the basics on nutrition labels like sodium, calories, fats and carbs and more attention to sugar and protein,” says Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst. “Regardless of the available nutritional information and dietary guidelines, consumers are choosing to focus on what they deem important.” 


Printing food for seniors

There’s a company printing beef for burgers, so why not food for patients who have trouble swallowing? A German tech company says it’s working on a 3-D printer that will print foods that can be easily eaten by elderly diners with dysphagia, according to Tech Crunch. Biozoon says the food its printer will “craft” can be molded into dishes like turkey medallions with carrots and potato foam, which will then dissolve in the mouth. Biozoon says it uses “molecular gastronomy to create food that can be ‘printed’ using a standard extruder-based printer. The food solidifies and is completely edible, but when it’s eaten it quickly dissolves in the mouth.”  


Dieting goes high tech

Technology makes everything easier, and soon it could help your dieting customers. General Electric is working on a calorie-counting machine that would use microwaves and scales to measure food. The device is simply placed over a plate of food and it measures how much energy is in the food. “We have the weight of the food and the proportion that’s water and the proportion that’s fat, and from that information we can estimate calories,” said General Electric Scientist Matt Webster, in an article from NPR. The product is still in the testing phase and hasn’t yet measured real food, Webster adds. 


Gluten free = healthy?

That’s the opinion of consumers. Only 25% of people living in a gluten-free home say celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is the main reason for cutting gluten. The vast majority instead cited reasons including that it improves digestive health and eliminates toxins from the body. While consumers believe a gluten-free diet is healthy for all and not just those with a medical condition, they also say these foods have higher costs than gluten-containing items. 


Men like meat; women like cheese

When it comes to the type of pizza consumers prefer, it varies by age, gender and location, according to a new study by Culinary Visions Panel, a research and forecasting firm based in Chicago. The panel asked 500 consumers how likely they would be to order the following pizza varieties at a restaurant: meat lovers (Italian sausage, pepperoni, ham and Asiago), four-cheese (gorgonzola, goat cheese, mozzarella and Parmesan), garden (whole-wheat crust, spinach, Roma tomatoes and red peppers), dessert (chocolate hazelnut spread and fresh berries), breakfast (scrambled eggs, cheddar and sausage) and salad (romaine lettuce, Parmesan and creamy Caesar dressing).

Here are some of the highlights from the research:

  • 76% of consumers preferred meat lovers and 71% selected four-cheese.
  • Men were more likely than women to pick meat toppings, with meat lovers, breakfast, salad and four-cheese as their favorite pizzas.
  • Women favored cheese options, selecting garden and dessert pizzas most often.
  • The top three favorite pizza toppings across all demographics are mozzarella, pepperoni and mushrooms. The top three meat toppings are pepperoni, Italian sausage and bacon.
  • When it comes to cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan and cheddar come out on top in all regions except in the Northeast, which preferred Asiago over cheddar.
  • Respondents between 18 and 34 years old were the most likely to definitely or probably order four-cheese, garden, dessert and breakfast pizzas.
  • There were also differences when it came to regions. For example, those in the West select mushrooms, olives and onions as their preferred vegetable pizza topping, while those in the Midwest pick onion, green pepper and mushrooms. 

Climate change’s newest victim: cereal

You might want to stock up on cereal now. The commodities price for corn and rice are projected to double by 2030, according to a new report by Oxfam. The organization says cereal prices will spike in the next 15 years. The cost of a box of Frosted Flakes could be 20% more, while Corn Flakes could jump 30% by 2030. The price spikes are due to climate change, Oxfam says, which is largely due to shifting weather patterns and extreme events like flood and drought. 


29.2 million: The amount of people who have posted a photo of a food or drink ordered when dining out to a social media site, according to new Mintel research. Thirteen percent of people who have dined out in the past month and use social media have posted a shot of their restaurant order. 

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