Retail Food Trends to Watch in 2023

February 2, 2023
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Lindsey Baron, Account Executive

To remain a leading grocery broker in the Southeast, the Bay Food Brokerage team stays current on retail food trends. In this post, our Account Executive Lindsey Baron shares insights on five retail food trends to watch in 2023. She also shares tips for how the right grocery broker partner can help manufacturer clients capitalize on these trends. 

5 Retail Food Trends to Watch in 2023

When it comes to food products, consumers’ preferences are always changing. Just because a product once flew off the grocery store shelves doesn’t mean it will always be popular. Food manufacturers need to keep their fingers on the pulse of retail food trends in order to stay relevant. Better yet, it can help them stay ahead of the curve.

Based on data provided by our technology/data partner SPINS as we start off 2023, here are five retail grocery shopping trends that manufacturers should take note of.

  1. Sustainability as a selling point

According to SPINS’s “Big Trends 2022” report, 77% of all grocery shoppers believe sustainability is important when selecting products. It also shows that food shoppers are thinking of sustainability more in terms of environmental rather than social factors.

“We do see a trend in manufacturers showcasing their sustainability in many ways, like reforestation, eliminating food waste and other regenerative actions,” Lindsey said. “For example, companies that produce grass-fed beef, which is healthier for the soil and results in lower carbon emissions than traditionally fed beef, is attractive to many of today’s shoppers.”

The SPINS report also notes that 66% of consumers and 80% of adults between the ages of 18 and 34 are willing to pay more for sustainable products compared to less-sustainable competitors. However, 78% of shoppers say that despite their desire to support companies that align with their values, they don’t know how to identify environmentally friendly companies.

“The right grocery broker partner can help manufacturers identify the attributes shoppers are looking for and suggest ways to call them out on packaging,” Lindsey said. “Third-party certifications on the label are a great way to showcase sustainability.”

  1. Biggest buyers of plant-based meat alternatives: Flexitarians and Gen Z

Some shoppers prefer plant-based meat alternatives because they perceive it as less harmful to the environment. And some are trying to incorporate more plant-based options into their diet for health reasons. Meanwhile, others are shying away from plant-based products they perceive as overly processed or because they prefer the taste and smell of real meat.

SPINS’s report shows that flexitarians and Generation Z are markets with the greatest growth potential for plant-based meat alternative products. Flexitarians are those who eat a semi-vegetarian, plant-forward diet. Meanwhile, vegans represent only 2% to 4% of shoppers buying plant-based products. Consider:

  • 50% of plant-based shoppers consider themselves flexitarians
  • 79% of Gen Z consumers choose to go meatless once or twice a week
  • 65% of Gen Z shoppers say they want a more plant-forward diet

“Plant-based meat alternatives are still popular with many shoppers,” Lindsey said. “Some products look like the meat version they’re imitating – like a plant-based patty that looks like a hamburger patty – and cook similarly to the meat version. That’s appealing to many shoppers who also eat meat and may just be entering into a flexitarian lifestyle. Also, as a grocery broker, I’ve noticed that shoppers who are concerned about foods being overly processed like to see actual plant products among the first ingredients listed on the package.”

  1. Online grocery shopping is important, but brick and mortar is still preferred

According to the SPINS report, the percentage of consumers who shop online at least weekly has increased from 11% in 2020 to 25% in 2022. (Notably, natural product shoppers buy online at nearly twice the rate of all shoppers.)

However, it’s important to note that in 2022, 66% of consumers shopped in-store at least once weekly. This means that, while online grocery shopping is increasing, in-store shopping is still preferred. Manufactures should keep these shopping preferences in mind when determining sales and merchandising strategy.

“The online shopping trend is not going to outpace brick and mortar any time soon,” Lindsey said. “But I think it will continue to grow, as busy consumers don’t have as much free time to make trips to the store every time they need groceries. Online grocery shopping platforms are an especially convenient way to pick up CPG staples that don’t necessarily need to be handpicked.”

  1. Alternative nutrition and supplement products expand delivery methods

Nutrition and supplement products have grown in popularity in recent years, with shoppers becoming more health-conscious. The grocery broker team at Bay Food has noted that now, beyond capsules, other forms of supplement products are gaining popularity. These include products like patches applied to the skin to aid sleep and relieve stress, and beverages with immunity-boosting ingredients.

“Our team is especially seeing this trend in the beverage space, items like probiotic sodas, cold pressed juices, and enhanced water with electrolytes/vitamins are on the rise,” Lindsey said. “It’s a quick and easy way for consumers to ingest nutrients that their food choices may be lacking, and it more appealing than taking a vitamin.”

According to the SPINS’s report, sleep patches saw 100% year-over-year sales growth from October 2021 to October 2022. And, liquid shots claiming to provide stress and mood support saw a 447% year-over-year sales growth in that same time period. (Source: 52 weeks ending 10.2.2022 SPINS SNE, MULO, powered by IRI)

  1. Non-alcoholic beverages continue to gain popularity

Alcohol-alternative beverages – such as non-alcoholic beer and wine, CBD beverages and kombucha – have all seen segment growth over the last year. In addition, the sports nutrition drink categories all reported double-digit growth during the same time period. (Source: SPINS Natural Channel, MULO, powered by IRI, 52 weeks ending 9.4.2022)

“Alcohol-alternatives are particularly of interest to the younger generation, which tends to be more health-conscious but still wants to be social,” Lindsey said.

One key trend noted in the SPINS report is the growing popularity of drinks and powders geared specifically for eSports and gaming enthusiasts. These products include ingredients specifically for this group, like those that enhance mental clarity and supports eye-brain connection.

How a Grocery Broker can Help Capitalize on Trends

The right grocery broker partner can help food manufacturers make smart decisions based on the latest retail food trends. First of all, ideally, the broker will have access to current data on these trends.

For instance, at Bay Food, we partner with SPINS, a leading provider of big data and analytics for the natural, organic and specialty products industry. This data offers insight into up-and-coming categories, how clients’ products are performing compared to competitors and more.

“Manufacturers should keep up on trends for future innovation,” Lindsey said. “Or, let’s say they’re playing around with an idea for a new concept. Then they’ll definitely want to know the latest trends and the direction consumers are headed with their preferences. As a leading grocery broker in the Southeast, we help our clients with that.”

Looking for a grocery broker partner to help your product capitalize on the latest retail food trends? Contact us today to learn how we can serve you.