Welcome to Prepared Foods’ annual retail food and beverage trends report. It’s an all-inclusive look at category dynamics and product development trends across as many as 12 product categories. 


Want to know what consumers are thinking in the supermarket aisle? Pardon me while I twist a familiar phrase—that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” That’s because a rising tide of consumer sentiment already is creating a sea change in new product development. That’s the conclusion of The NPD Group, which recently released its 29th annual “Eating Patterns in America Report.”

NPD says Americans want their food to be natural and not altered to the latest dieting patterns.

Consumers are cutting back consumption of food with 12 labels that are considered “better for you,” such as diet, low sugar, caffeine-free, low carb and reduced sodium, among others. The report finds Americans cut back on products with these labels for the sixth straight year—now to the lowest level in a decade.

Through the year ending February 2014, Americans consumed 1.9 products per person per day with a label that indicated one of the 12 attributes. That is down 27% from 2008, when Americans consumed 2.6 of these products per person per day. Even though these products are meant to demonstrate that they are “better for you” consumers appear to be drawing a different conclusion, says Harry Balzer, senior vice president, The NPD Group’s chief food industry Analyst and author of the NPD Group’s Eating Patterns in America Report.

“It seems we have entered a new phase of marketing health to the American consumer. The first phase, back in the 80s and 90s, focused on avoiding harmful substances in our food, such as fat, cholesterol and sodium. The second phase—from the mid-90s to just a few years ago—was a move to add more beneficial substances in our diet, such as whole grains, dietary fiber and probiotics. It appears we are in the third phase of the ‘healthy food revolution,’” Balzer says. “In this latest evolution consumers appear to be avoiding foods and beverages that were made to be better for them and instead consumers are going for products that are real and not altered.”