Food Trends for Fall and Winter: Webinar Key Takeaways

September 25, 2023

By Jim Dudlicek / NGA Director of Communications and External Affairs

What trends should independent grocers be leveraging in Q4 to maximize sales and customer satisfaction?

Fresh is always a winner, but there are plenty of other bright areas this season, ripe for opportunity throughout the store to give independents an edge with consumers planning their fall and winter menus.

NGA hosted a recent webinar in which Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader for client insights at market researcher Circana, explored the highs and lows anticipated in the marketplace in the months ahead.

Here are some key takeaways from the presentation:

Every income group is purchasing differently, offering opportunities for targeted communications. Meal components or scratch-cooking ingredients are among winners with low-income households. Baking products and meal components are winning with middle income. Discretionary categories like beverages and snacks are strong among higher-income households. Consumers are continuing trade-down behaviors, with more shopping in the value channel and for private-label products.

Which categories offer opportunity? Price-conscious consumers shop more independents for fresh meat; cross-promotions with cooking ingredients will help to move other merchandise. For carbonated beverages, BOGOs and discounts might drive volume. Pricing helped salty snacks during YA Q4; work to capture more buyers in three months with all levers you have available. Pricing is a key factor driving beer sales; alcohol baskets are some of the largest. Q4 holidays are a boom time for fresh bread and rolls. Communicate the convenience and price benefit of frozen dinners/entrees for non-holiday days during this period when home cooking surges.

Categories that can expand a meal or offer low-cost satiety are winning: Drink or tea mixes and enhancers; rice, pasta, dry beans/vegetables and bouillon; ingredients such as vinegar, baking needs and pizza products; lower cost-per-serving items like ramen, frankfurters, bagels, nut butter and tortillas; freezer items over perishables to minimize risk of food waste. Lower-income households are purchasing more meat types that are more easily stretched in a meal, like ground beef and chicken breasts and thighs.

Leverage categories that outpace big-box stores to help the consumer with their fall eating and drinking occasions. Products that independents far outpace big-box stores in sales include marshmallows, baking nuts, pasta sauce, fruit snacks, Mexican foods and steak sauce.

Diversity is a differentiator for independents and should be factored in for holiday displays and menu suggestions. Indies outpace large stores in sales among Hispanics and Asians.

Convenience is key. Lower-prep dinners are gaining importance – fewer ingredients, fewer steps. Many heat-and-eat frozen foods grew over the past year, like meat/poultry, pizza, pasta and side dishes. Seize opportunities along the “convenience continuum,” from raw ingredients to value-added proteins and vegetables, to ready-to-heat or -eat selections. Know your shoppers – as households get smaller, they gravitate more toward convenience and RTE products.

Inflation is expected to take a seat at the Thanksgiving table. A third of consumers will be looking for deals and a quarter expect to pay more for Thanksgiving groceries this year compared to last year. Still, as pandemic-related curbs on celebrating are forgotten, most consumers plan to celebrate Thanksgiving in the usual way, hosting larger groups for dinner.

Don’t miss out on early Halloween sales. A quarter of candy buyers will purchase their giveaway treats earlier this year than last year. 84% of those who participate in Halloween will give out packaged treats, 77% will hand out packaged candy/chocolates and 18% will give out other snacks like chips, popcorn or cookies.

Embrace digital deals and maintain the impulse factor online, where shoppers are less likely to explore brands and products, favoring more to repeat their past purchases. Appeal to their mindset and provide adjacent suggestions to deepen the basket and enrich their meal experiences.

Tactics for driving additional growth. Target opportunities within key demographics, such as low/middle income, GenZ/Millennial and single households. Understand trade-down behaviors. Win at foodservice with meal deals and delivery. Create solutions for quick trips and stock-ups. Focus on differentiated experiences and relevant offerings for convenience. Accelerate digital marketing by personalizing experiences.

To hear more exclusive insights from this webinar, view the complete presentation here: