Adaptation – 3 Categories Evolve

Dec. 16, 2011 | by Suzy Badaracco

Below is Part II of "Adaptation." Click here to read Part I.

The new double cage arrangement changed the dynamic between Lilly and Teddy but in an unexpected way. Once the space was expanded, Lilly became her own piggy (cavy for the sticklers) and while Teddy often seemed irritated by Lilly it was she who was the follower now, moving from one cage to the other according to Lilly's whim. As herd animals, their dynamic is more subtle and complex then pack animals. No two pairs can be predicted or anticipated in their actions. Just as with trends – no two groups behave the same although their evolution is in response to the same forces acting upon them. But even in a herd, the individuals must be recognized for their part in the dance that makes up the mood of the time and that of consumers.

Three trend groups evolving are meats, greens, and a sub segment of beverage referred to as bubbles (Flavor and the Menu).

The Grounders

During the height of the recession, one of the major trends receiving press was nicknamed "head to tail." It involved organ meats such as tripe, sweet breads, kidney, liver and brain, but in truth, these types of items are not well engrained in American consumers younger then Boomers. Xer's, Gen Y, Gen Z do not have the history with these foods and so it was a hard sell to them beyond the novelty factor.

The stronger direction for Americans is to move toward bone-in meats. It has ties to historical and regional dishes without the unfamiliarity of organ meats. They are raw and rugged in appearance but have the complex savory notes craved right now. It also has the added enticement of preparation knowledge since they are just a bit more complicated to prepare than boneless cuts including game meats. Consumers want to be hip, cool and in the know right now coming into a recovery. This gives them the opportunity in a non-threatening way. Remember, they still have one hand on the blanket of fear.

The Challengers

Greens are equally as interesting but on a different path than meats. Here they move aggressively instead of reserved as with meats. Braising calms their strong flavors while, if served raw, it showcases their true personality. Mustard, collards, Swiss chard, and foraged greens such as purslane and dandelion are examples. And make no mistake, greens tie strongly into the foraging trend. Foraging would seem to be a recession behavior but in fact it is a recovery behavior. It is courageous to forage because of the risk of sickness or death. It is not seen during a recession due to the fear inherent to a recession. Bitter greens echo with consumers' desire for stronger flavors that only surfaces during a recovery. When you see butter lettuce, mac and cheese, and meatloaf reappear – panic because consumers are plunging back into recession mindset.

The Flirts

The last category is bubbles which is a subset of the beverage category. Bubbles are flirty, provocative, and seductive and it is exactly the right time for them. Artisanal sodas, sparkling wine cocktails, beer-based drinks, hard ciders and enhanced sparkling waters are all part of the trend. Bubbles can indirectly be associated with health as with sparkling juice and enhanced sparkling water. Take advantage of this angle. During a recession what you see is cheap beer and wine, but during a recovery bubbles come back in the form of champagne, etc.

Bubbles represent hopefulness and celebration. There really are no rules when it comes to bubbles because they represent pure scintillation and play. There is also not some clear history that other categories have. When there are no set rules, there are no pre-conceived notions on the part of consumers. This in turn allows for freedom on the part of the developer and acceptance by consumers.

During this time, and going forward, the clearest path is to bridge the categories between where they were during the recession and where each it going in the birth of recovery. To stray risks confusing and alienating consumers who, right now, are not in the mood to be led astray or abandoned – again.

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability , Customer Service / Experience , Food & Beverage , Trends / Statistics

Suzy Badaracco / Suzy Badaracco is a toxicologist, chef, and registered dietitian. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Criminalistics, an Associates degree in Culinary Arts, and a Masters of Science degree in Human Nutrition.
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