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6. All-day satisfaction. College campuses are best positioned to understand the consumer of tomorrow. Few professionals are as adept at the all-day balancing act as those that must satisfy customers who sometimes eat five to six times a day and expect fresh food at all times. In a spirited discussion at an industry conference this year, a college operator warned her commercial colleagues that when today’s students graduate they will bring their high expectations for quality and service with them.

In designing menus, restaurants open early and late might learn a lesson from the day and night dichotomy of college campuses. During daytime hours the demand is for healthy, mindful eating, but when the sun goes down indulgence is what sells.

7. Idealism meets reality. More mindful of the realities of embracing local products, consumers are learning that integrity can still exist with some mindful compromise. When large food companies and restaurant chains get involved in supporting their local communities, they are finding favor with mainstream consumers who want to enjoy their meals and have a clear conscience.
8. Mindfulness of brand language. Consumers use many criteria to evaluate healthfulness, including ingredients, emotion and social concern. Traditional “free-from” claims are moving to more contemporary claims that sell fresh and homemade with clean ingredient statements. Ethical food is becoming a cue for healthy.

Descriptive words without a standard of identity have proliferated to the point that they have become meaningless. Consumers are more inclined to seek out the source and understand their food philosophy rather than pick up products with unsupported claims like natural or artisan. Leading food manufacturers and food retailers are making it easy for consumers to connect with their philosophy in statements on their website and practices in their businesses.

9. The need for trust. Trust is a significant factor in brand choices. Consumers want food from companies they trust to deliver nourishing, great tasting food with respect for those who produce it and the planet. Millennial consumers in particular are evaluating companies not only on their products and their brands, but on their corporate conscience.

Today’s consumer is active and in charge when it comes to the foods they like and the places they like to eat. When surveyed about sources they trust, friends, family and social networks outrank marketing messages. Savvy marketers have learned how to stimulate or join the conversation, not just react to fallout.
10. Smart and connected by technology. Technology has made everything “smart,” empowering consumers with information to fuel their decision making and helping them make more mindful choices about what they choose to eat and drink. Economic conditions have created a new scrutiny of value by consumers across every socio-economic level. Enabled by technology and social networks, consumers are smart and connected.