SEPTEMBER 2011 - Consumers are hungry for recipe, health and food information, stated Phil Lempert, “The Supermarket Guru” and author of the Lempert Report, at the Food Marketing Institute's (FMI) 2011 Health and Wellness Conference, held in April in Orlando, Fla. According to Lempert, the followingfood and health predictions from 2009 came to fruition in 2010 and will continue to drive consumer purchases and product development in 2011:

-          Less is More:Food brands will continue to use “real foods” on ingredient labels and shortening the label’s length – less is more;

Phil Lambert
photo of butcher - Gennaro

-          Getting Back to Basics:Americans have shifted away from the art and glamour of meal preparation and are now focused on preparing easy, great-tasting meals to nourish their families;

-          The Butcher’s Back:Now more than ever, people want to know where their food is coming from, especially in the meat case where the labels can often list multiple countries of origins. Expect a renewed interest in local butchers, long viewed as a figment of the past;

-          Power of the Collective:Expect that more shoppers will depend less on advertising and more on social networking and word-of-mouth to help them make decisions on what foods to buy; and

-          Relaxation Foods:More brands will focus on positioning their products as “relaxation” foods rather than “comfort,” with the message of helping people relax and unwind.

Lempert predicts that, as a result of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, foods will be looked at more holistically rather than focused on certain nutrients or ingredients; this will result in simplified ingredient statements. Further, 2011 will see the demise of "all-natural" claims. He advised that naturally occurring vitamin D will be touted and that milk will make a big comeback with kids and adults. In 2011, new beverages with less carbonation, a blend of Stevia and unique fruit-based flavors will be introduced.

According to Lempert, the year will bring more advanced medical testing to correctly identify those afflicted with food allergies. In addition, regional foods based on the tastes and culture of the areas they are sold in will emerge with major brands marketing special flavors based in limited geographical distribution, using named and sourced “local” ingredients, and based upon the cultural heritage of their customers.

"Reading food labels is an important step in choosing foods that are right for each individual; but this crucial step is still a challenge," stated Lempert, "whether it’s actually getting individuals to read the label, let alone understand what’s on the label."  In an exclusive SuperMarket Guru Quick Poll, the Lempert Report sought to understand if consumers actually read labels when shopping for certain foods and how their label reading habits differed between categories. 

 A large majority, nearly 70% of the consumer panel, say they always read the package for nutrition facts and ingredients when food shopping; the balance, 30%, say they sometimes do. In beverages, consumers are most concerned with sugars (65%), calories (61%) and ingredients (61%). Calories (64%), ingredients (63%) followed by fats and sugars- both at 60%, are of greatest concern in dessert products.
Fat is the main concern of consumers when shopping for dairy products, at 64%, followed by ingredients (52%) and calories (50%). And for entrees and meals, 70% of respondents are interested in  ingredients and sodium, while calories concern 65%; this is followed by fat (61%) and sugar (42%). In snack foods, calories, sodium, fat, ingredients, and sugar are all concerns of more than two thirds of respondents.

Lempert concluded it is crucial to understand consumers and their concerns when formulating new products, as well as reformulating existing ones. Several trends from 2009 are continuing to dominate 2011, while new issues and consumer foci will occur as a result of the new Dietary Guidelines.

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