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Consumers Driving Food, Private Label Change

March 22, 2013
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Speaking before a group of private label manufacturing executives Friday, retail analyst Phil Lempert said the grocery landscape was undergoing massive change because of the influences of multiple generations.

Lempert told the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s executive leadership conference that the food eaten by children in schools and consumed by Millennials and baby boomers alike is changing because of their tastes.

“Instead of local, think of locale,” said Lempert, owner of the website. “Where did the products come from? People want to know where their food is coming from. … We’ve got the kids in school, Millennials, and baby boomers really driving the change.”

That’s necessary, he said, because the boomers’ changes will affect the health and wellness of the other generations.

“The baby boomers are leading the next generation of food and they better because if they don’t we’re going to see more diabetes, more high blood pressure, more heart disease,” he said. “We need to read those labels. We need to eat better.”

He said that food had become the communication vehicle of the Internet age, citing web searches and social media as places where food and food conversation dominates the landscape.

“Food is now enjoyment and communication, not just sustenance,” he said.

He said the younger generations, especially the Millennials, are driving major changes in eating habits and private label adoption. Breakfast, Lempert said, is becoming the most important meal of the day because of its cheaper price and sustaining nutritional abilities through the day. He expects a major increase in breakfast product launches, particularly breakfast sandwiches, this year.

That ties in with the increase with frozen food acceptance, he said.

“Consumers are finally figuring out that just because it’s frozen doesn’t mean it’s bad,” he said.

Convenience plays into that, he said, along with better ingredients being used in the frozen products. And the “passion” of Millennials for food is also expanding the acceptance of food pallets in the grocery aisles.

“We certainly have more passion there than we have in m any generations,” he said.

And that led to Lempert’s takeaway point: Knowing what information is the best to follow.

“Don’t look at the report about how many times somebody buys you product,” he said. “Look at the report about how many times somebody who buys your product tells someone else about your product.”

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