3 Consumer Trends Set to Impact Grocery Inventory in 2018

Consumer trends are a strong force in influencing grocery store inventory from year to year––something inventory managers need to keep their finger on. Unfortunately, finding the time to pick through market research is easier said than done for busy store leaders.

To help you paint a clearer picture for the rest of this year (and likely beyond), we’ve gathered some recent consumer grocery trends that may be worth considering when planning inventory changes in the near future.

Long story short, three trends jump out: increased snacking (especially among Millenials), the resurgence of fermented foods as “superfoods,” and the continued push for healthy options across the board.

1. Millennials (and others) are snacking––a lot.

Over the past few years, consumer eating trends have generally shifted away from the traditional three set meal times with more people opting for snacks packed with nutrition throughout the day.

While it’s not particularly surprising that 94 percent of Americans snack at least once a day, Millennials, as a generation, are snacking as often as four or more times a day.

Taken overall, snacking now accounts for half of all eating occasions. As a result, more snacking means a growing demand for snacks that offer the nutritional punch people typically get with a meal. These “super snacks” couple substantial nutritional value with convenience, appealing textures, and rich flavors.

Although people are snacking more than ever, it’s also important to note what hasn’t changed when it comes to what ends up in the shopping cart. Taste is still the number one factor when choosing a snack––an important point to consider when deciding specifically what kinds of products should fill your shelves.

As far as what is changing, Millennials in particular are increasingly scrutinizing the ingredient list before they throw something in the cart. What are they looking for? Typically, it’s a short list of trusted, real, whole or “clean” ingredients that both satisfy hunger and provide the quality they’re after. “Quality” in this case isn’t just about the ingredients themselves. It also extends to exotic or premium varieties and specific attributes regarding how the food was sourced and produced.

In particular, they’re thinking about how their purchase may impact personal factors, societal concerns such as the local community or economy, worker and animal welfare, and global sustainability of the environment and the planet.

Besides these very important points about what kinds of snacks consumers are looking for, consider a few other important needs that are driving individual snack-buying decisions:

  • Desire for a particular nutritional attribute
  • Snacks as a source of energy or appetite satisfaction
  • Snacks for replenishment or recovery after a workout
  • Snacks as de-stressors or emotional comfort support
  • (And of course) snacks as a way to relax and indulge

Keep in mind that snack selection may look completely different for a person snacking alone compared with when snacking with children or others. As more consumers shift to meal replacements, they’ll likely come to expect this kind of variety.

2. Fermented foods are growing in popularity as “superfoods”

According to a survey of dietitians, fermented foods and drinks such as kombucha, yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi are expected to be the top “superfood” group in 2018.

The Pollock Communications and Today’s Dietitian’s “What’s Trending in Nutrition” survey, which polled 2,050 registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) nationwide, also predicted that “clean eating” and plant-based diets will remain the two most popular diet trends for 2018.

The rising popularity of fermented foods illustrates that consumers have expanded their definition of wellness to include benefits like gut health. Experts noticed the rise in popularity of fermented foods, including probiotics all the way back in 2014, but today, their predictions of these products getting bigger among consumers have largely come true.

Recent consumer research conducted in Europe has shown a boom in fermented foods among consumers, and some dietitians say the trend is already on track to make a significant impact here in the U.S.

3. Healthy, ethical, eco-friendly options are in-demand across the board

As retail sales of natural and organic foods and beverages continues its steady rise, all grocers may want to peek into the playbook of natural grocers to understand how to grow their own natural offerings. We’ve summarized Natural Grocers’ top nutrition trends for this year below.


The continued growth of all organics

As more consumers are becoming aware of the impact pesticides and nutrition have on their health, they’re demanding more healthful and nutritious food. This is translating into a robust organic industry that has experienced double-digit growth in recent years.


Minimized food waste

Almost half of the food in America is wasted, and more consumers are taking steps to curb the problem. Minimizing food waste, such as making soup with a chicken carcass, roasting carrots with some balsamic vinegar, and using the tops in a salad, are all ways consumers are reducing waste and save money.

Grass-fed meats are in high demand

When cows or goats eat only grasses and other forages, it translates into more healthful milk from healthier cows. This trend isn’t limited to dairy – meat and even dietary supplements like whey protein are now being sourced from grass-fed cattle.

Traditional groceries are being replaced with natural alternatives

Noodles are a perfect example of a staple grocery item getting a healthier transformation in 2018. Nutrient-dense vegetable noodles such as zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) or sweet potato noodles can be made with a spiralizers and used to replace high-carbohydrate, nutrient-poor processed grains in pasta-based dishes. Jicama, beets and daikon, too, can be used to make vegetable noodles.

We recently conducted a survey to find the impact expired products had on consumer shopping behavior. To read the report in its entirety, download a copy by clicking below.

Download the impact of expired products on supermarket sales & shopping behavrior