PF Exclusive: ‘Home-Centric’ Times Offer Opportunities for CPG Manufacturers

Economic woes find American consumers turning to their own homes for everything from dining to entertainment. However, consumers’ new home-centric behaviors are creating new opportunities for consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers, according to Krista Faron, senior analyst for Mintel International Group LLC, Chicago.

“The home really does take on new relevance in times of uncertainty,” Faron said in a March 24 breakout session during the Information Resources Inc. (IRI) Reinventing CPG and Retail Summit: Insights to Impact in Las Vegas. Manufacturers that help consumers to focus on “experiences over materialism,” to indulge their hobbies and interests in “more intimate, cost-effective ways,” and to reconnect with friends and family have the best chance for success going forward.

Faron detailed the CPG categories that are best positioned to weather the recession.

“It’s about simplicity and indulgence -— just a different kind of indulgence,” Faron said.

One of the trends she noted is home as entertainment center and “staycation” destination. Need proof of this new reality? Wii systems enjoyed record January sales this year, Faron said, and Netflix’s 4Q 2008 profit was up 45%.

Manufacturers have an opportunity to take advantage of these occasions by providing fun snacks, she said, and marketing them for home-centric indulgence.

Dining out also is on the decline, with 52% of consumers saying they are spending less money in restaurants. Here, manufacturers can benefit by embracing the at-home chef and providing exciting refrigerated and frozen prepared meals, Faron said. On-trend launches include restaurant-inspired meals such as the new Joy of Cooking frozen meal line from Bellisio Foods of Duluth, Minn.

Consumers also are looking for restaurant-inspired flavor profiles, such as the new “As Good As Going Out” Thai Chicken Curry and Coconut Rice entree from Waitrose, a U.K. retailer. Ditto for celebrity chef-inspired offerings such as Mario Batali’s Cinque Formaggi Cheese blend.

Faron pointed to T.G.I. Friday’s Complete Skillet Meals from Heinz as a bit of proof of the restaurant-inspired home-dining trend. Mintel’s analysis shows the line, introduced in summer 2008, outperformed other new products in the category through its first 38 weeks of launch.

Breakfast, too, presents an opportunity for manufacturers, Faron said. Snack/granola bars and cold cereal made modest gains (1.5% and 3%, respectively) versus last year, but frozen breakfast entrees grew an impressive 6.8%, according to IRIS, a Mintel/IRI database.

“This suggests that restaurant-inspired breakfast has some legs,” Faron said. She added that Heinz’s new Smart Ones frozen breakfast entrees outscored other new products in the category in terms of dollar sales.

Yet another opportunity lies in home-brewed coffee, Faron said, as consumers continue to slash visits to coffee houses.

“We’re hearing very clearly from consumers that they’re brewing more coffee at home because it’s cheaper,” Faron said. Here, Dunkin Donuts coffee, which combines premium with value, seems to have found the right balance, she added.

Indeed, the product was one of IRI’s 2008 New Product Pacesetters, coming in as number two on the top-10 list of new product bestsellers in terms of 2008 dollar sales.

From the April 27, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition