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Food & Beverage Market Research & Business Solutions

No one knows more about how people eat than The NPD Group. For decades now, we’ve been the definitive source of information on food and beverage consumption, whether at home or away-from-home. Snacks-on-the-go? Lunch at the drive-thru? Dinner with the family? We track them all.

We monitor a wide range of critical food industry trends and track consumer behavior, attitudes, and usage motivators – from diet and nutrition to food safety and brand awareness.

The smartest companies in the food and beverage industry depend on our information, insights, and expertise to understand what consumers are actually eating and drinking. In addition to providing this unique information, we can combine our data with your information or third-party data to help you solve specific, difficult business issues.


Eating Patterns in America

Our annual report, Eating Patterns in America, is the only source of more than three decades of trended information that provides in-depth insight into actual consumption behavior — and, more importantly, how it is changing. EPA examines in-home and away from-home food and beverage consumption, and addresses the impacts of health, nutrition, demographic shifts, and economic factors on consumer behavior related to foods and beverages. 

For more information visit www.npd.com/epa

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National Eating Trends

National Eating Trends® (NET®) monitors thousands of individuals’ eating habits each year to provide a complete view of food and beverage consumption in the U.S. This information goes far beyond supermarket scanner and purchase panel data to focus on consumers’ actual eating situations. For nearly 30 years, NET has captured preparation and consumption situations for foods and beverages, reporting on who consumes particular food and beverage products, when and where they consume them, and how they are consumed.  This information can be used in research and new product development as well as in marketing mature brands.

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SnackTrack® is the go-to source for U.S. snack food consumption information. SnackTrack’s ongoing consumer data collection presents a complete picture of snack and convenience foods to help you understand critical trends in behavior, attitudes, and usage. It captures who, when, where, why, and how specific snack-oriented foods and brands are consumed, and examines situational and motivational dynamics that affect snack food consumption. Leading snack and convenience food manufacturers rely on SnackTrack to provide insight beyond conventional purchase databases.

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Dieting Monitor

Examine the top-of-mind dieting and health issues facing consumers today. Dieting Monitor helps companies understand dieting patterns, perceptions of dieting and health, and the influence these factors have on consumers. It also reports on awareness of and participation in specific diets, including all of the programs consumers and the media talk about most.

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Food Safety Monitor

Understand the strong influence consumers’ food safety concerns can have on your business and your industry. Equipping your company with a clear view of consumers’ food safety worries, this tracking tool provides unprecedented insight into consumers’ food safety concerns, food safety knowledge, and future eating intentions, allowing for strong and strategic decision making.

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International Food & Beverage Habits

Get a complete view of consumers’ food and beverage habits, both in-home and away, in Brazil, Russia, India, Mexico, and China (“BRIMC” countries). This report reveals the structure of eating and drinking occasions throughout the day and how food and beverage categories fit into those occasions. Based on a consistent survey methodology across these emerging markets and the U.S., this study delivers the insight needed to uncover the most promising opportunities for food and beverage marketers.

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Kitchen Audit

This inventory of American kitchens represents a key “ingredient” in recipe development. Since its inception in 1993, The NPD Group’s Kitchen Audit study has offered food and housewares manufacturers a comprehensive profile of the foods, beverages, appliances, cookware, utensils, and other cooking materials kept on hand in American home kitchens. It also identifies who uses recipes and where they source them from.

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NET Hispanic Study

Explore eating habits of Hispanic consumers, both at home and away from home. The study reveals new details about the cooking, eating, and dining behaviors of Hispanics in the U.S. It also explores the many segments of the U.S. Hispanic population and their unique characteristics and needs that influence food behaviors, including detail on U.S. Hispanics by country of origin, acculturation, language, and first/second/third generations.

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Modeling and Analytics

Where are the opportunities? Where are the dangers? What happens next? Now you can know. The NPD Group’s Solutions portfolio provides insight into what will happen in the future in your market.

Our team combines NPD POS and consumer information; custom survey research; distinctive, one-of-a kind research techniques and methodologies; and a half century of industry expertise to identify opportunities, uncover threats, forecast sales and market share, optimize pricing and assortment, and much more.

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February 25, 2016

The Evolution of Eating

Deepen your insight into the food and beverage consumption habits of Gen Z, Millennials, and Boomers

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January 4, 2016

Snacking in America with CultureWaves

Your Definitive Guide to Snacking

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November 16, 2015

Food For Thought: Consumers Still Evolving Their Consumption Behaviors

U.S. consumers' tastes and behaviors evolve slowly – sugary snacks and drinks have taken a hit as people seek foods and beverages perceived as healthy, for example, but . . .

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October 30, 2015

Eating Patterns in America – Annual Report

Fresh Insights, New Look

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August 27, 2015

Playbook: How to Win More Sales From Beverage Offerings

Get our new infographic — Win More Sales From Beverage Offerings

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August 6, 2015

Get the Facts on Snacks and Snackers

see growth of snack foods consumed as part of main meals, size the primary snacking segments, and more

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Press Releases

May 23, 2016

Big Three Quick Service Burger Chains Vie for the Value Meal Throne As Others Enter the Battle

Combo value meals successful in driving traffic and visit frequency Chicago, May 23, 2016 —Since last fall it has been a game of thrones among the top three quick service burger chains, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s,  as one after another launched their version of a combo value meal a Since last fall it has been a game of thrones among the top three quick service burger chains, Burger King, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s, as one after another launched their version of a combo value meal and battled for visitors and quick service dollars, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Though the value wars still rage on as other restaurant chains enter the battle, it turns out that each burger chain’s value-oriented combo meal is victorious in its own right, whether driving visit frequency, incenting more foot traffic, or increasing check size, according to NPD’s receipt mining service, Checkout Trackingsm.

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May 18, 2016

Although Their Numbers are Down, Independent Restaurants Increased Spending with Broadline Distributors the Last Two Years, Reports NPD’s SupplyTrack

Street operators face challenges but remain the heart of the foodservice industry Chicago, May 18, 2016 —If restaurant chains are the backbone of the restaurant industry, then independent restaurants are the heart. Despite declining unit counts for the last two years, independent restaurant operato If restaurant chains are the backbone of the restaurant industry, then independent restaurants are the heart. Despite declining unit counts for the last two years, independent restaurant operators represent a third of broadline foodservice distribution dollars, and their spending has increased year-over-year for the past two years, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company.

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May 17, 2016

U.S. Consumers Love Their Breakfasts and Morning Snacks Whether In- or Away-From-Home

Breakfast occasions to grow by 5 percent over next few years Chicago, May 17, 2016 —Telling Americans that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a moot point.  They get it.  The consumption of breakfasts and morning snacks, in- and away-from-home, is forecast to grow faster than Telling Americans that breakfast is the most important meal of the day is a moot point. They get it. The consumption of breakfasts and morning snacks, in- and away-from-home, is forecast to grow faster than the U.S. population over the next few years, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Total breakfast occasions, in- and away-from-home, are forecast to grow by 5 percent through 2019, ahead of the expected population growth of 4 percent. Annual morning snack occasions per person, in- and away-from-home, have increased by 17 percent over the past six years, according to NPD’s continual tracking of U.S. eating behaviors.

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May 10, 2016

A Mix of Generational, Life Stage, and Aging Influences Will Inform the Future of Eating in the U.S.

Life Stage Does Affect Eating Behaviors but Generations Approach Life Stages Differently Chicago, May 10, 2016 — Turns out that not all Millennials, Boomers, Gen Xs or Zs are created equal when it comes to eating behaviors, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company.  Age, ethnicity, Turns out that not all Millennials, Boomers, Gen Xs or Zs are created equal when it comes to eating behaviors, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Age, ethnicity, life stage, and values also influence current and future eating behaviors, based on a recently released NPD study that leverages 30 years of actual consumption data to quantitatively determine what is myth and reality about eating patterns among the generations.

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April 20, 2016

Hispanics Continue to Grow Restaurant Visits While Non-Hispanic Visits Are Flat, Reports NPD

Chains, like Applebee’s, benefit from Hispanic outreach Chicago, April 20, 2016 — Hispanics, who are a growth target for major restaurant chains based on their large numbers, increased visits to restaurants and foodservice outlets last year while total restaurant traffic was flat, reports The NPD Gr Hispanics, who are a growth target for major restaurant chains based on their large numbers, increased visits to restaurants and foodservice outlets last year while total restaurant traffic was flat, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Last year Hispanics made 10.5 billion visits to restaurants and other foodservice outlets, increasing visits by one percent over a year ago, according to NPD’s ongoing CREST® Hispanic foodservice market research.

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April 18, 2016

We Are A Snacking Nation But Still Eat Three Main Meals A Day, Reports NPD Group

Chicago, April 18, 2016 — Snacking and talking about how much U.S. consumers snack is all the rage, but contrary to popular belief Americans still do eat three main meals a day, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company.  It’s fact that U.S. consumers snack a lot — between meal Snacking and talking about how much U.S. consumers snack is all the rage, but contrary to popular belief Americans still do eat three main meals a day, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. It’s fact that U.S. consumers snack a lot — between meal snacking accounts for about a third of all eating occasions — but they continue to view the day as generally having three main meal occasions that align with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, according to NPD’s daily tracking of eating and snacking behaviors.

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April 6, 2016

Fast Casual Restaurant Chains Continue to Grow in Units and Customer Visits

Chipotle, Panera, Panda Express, Five Guys, and Firehouse Subs Top List of Largest Fast Casual Chains Chicago, April  6, 2016 —Fast casual  restaurant chains, which are upscale quick service restaurant (QSR) concepts, continue  to be on a winning streak, growing  both in units and customer v Fast casual restaurant chains, which are upscale quick service restaurant (QSR) concepts, continue to be on a winning streak, growing both in units and customer visits, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. The number of fast casual chain restaurants rose by 5 percent to 19,043 total units, based on NPD’s Fall 2015 ReCount® restaurant census, which includes restaurants open as of September 30, 2015. Fast casual customers increased their visits by 6 percent in the year ending February 2016 compared to a year ago, while total foodservice traffic rose by 1 percent, according to NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research.

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March 15, 2016

Despite Turmoil, Europe and Asia Foodservice Markets Continue to Grow, Albeit Slowly

Chicago, March 15, 2016 — For many countries around the globe the remaining months of 2015 were filled with turmoil of various kinds, but in spite of this chaos, citizens of the world continued to dine out and fuel the global foodservice industry’s slow and steady growth, reports The NPD Group, For many countries around the globe the remaining months of 2015 were filled with turmoil of various kinds, but in spite of this chaos, citizens of the world continued to dine out and fuel the global foodservice industry’s slow and steady growth, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Customer traffic made strong contributions to overall consumer spending in most of the markets tracked by NPD’s CREST®, which continually tracks consumer use of foodservice outlets in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Russia, Spain, the United States, and now Brazil and Korea.

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March 8, 2016

Millennials Have Nothing on Boomers When It Comes to Snacking

Boomers total about 90.4 billion ready-to-eat snack eatings a year, 20 percent more than Millennials Chicago, March 8, 2016 — Millennials are the shining stars of today’s marketplace but when it comes to snacking — which is all the rage in the food industry — it’s Boomers who shine, finds The NPD G Millennials are the shining stars of today’s marketplace but when it comes to snacking — which is all the rage in the food industry — it’s Boomers who shine, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company. Boomers eat ready-to-eat snack food 20 percent more often than Millennials do, according to NPD’s daily tracking of U.S. consumers snacking habits.

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February 16, 2016

U.S. Consumers Are Using Less Dishes and Ingredients in Meal Prep and Eating Occasions are Flat

Food Companies Are Competing for a Larger Share of a Smaller Food and Beverage Pie Chicago, February 16, 2016 —Evolving attitudes and behaviors are creating shifts in the foods and beverages consumers choose. U.S. consumers are using less dishes and ingredients in meal preparation and the number of Evolving attitudes and behaviors are creating shifts in the foods and beverages consumers choose. U.S. consumers are using less dishes and ingredients in meal preparation and the number of food and beverage occasions consumed are flat; as a result major food companies are scrambling to meet these changing needs, finds The NPD Group, a leading global information company that has been continually tracking all aspects of how U.S. consumers eat for over three decades. This unprecedented shift in consumer attitudes and behaviors have food manufacturers struggling to find growth in a changing marketplace where legacy brands are ceding share to smaller, new entrants and the store perimeter is outperforming center of the store.

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February 4, 2016

Quenching Their Thirst For Beverages

Consumers' beverage preferences have shifted. They are having fewer beverage occasions at home and ordering drinks less frequently at restaurants. Here are some of the latest beverage facts from our Eating Patterns in America report....

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February 4, 2016

Naturally, We Eat

Health is becoming more about the purity of the foods U.S. consumers eat, rather than about the absence of negatives or presence of positives. And consumers are seeking minimally processed items. Here's a look at our latest insights about the focus on healthy and natural foods....

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December 3, 2015

Fueling the Day With Breakfast


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May 23, 2016

Generation, Life Stage, or Both: What’s Behind the Shifts?

The behaviors of the Millennial generation have been highly analyzed and studied, so it shouldn’t be surprising to hear this group consumes many fresh foods and beverages and makes healthy snack food choices. The unanswered question until now has been whether these behaviors are attributable to life stage or if they are generational shifts that will carry through the rest of their lives.

Americans have been told for the last 30 years they should consume more vegetables, with little movement from consumers on that initiative. Marketers have attempted to make vegetables more enticing with dips and other additions, but increasing vegetable consumption has been an elusive goal. What’s shifting is where people source vegetables in the grocery store. Our National Eating Trends® data shows nearly half of the vegetables eaten in the 1980s came from the fresh aisle of the store; that has grown to about 60 percent more recently. It’s apparently a zero-sum shift as consumers move away from frozen and canned forms of vegetables in favor of fresh – while keeping their total vegetable consumption levels steady.

We’ve observed that Millennials are a big reason why fresh consumption has been increasing overall, but can we attribute that increase to where they are in their lives? Our new report, A Generational Study: The Evolution of Eating, says Millennials’ shifts reflect a fundamental change in the way they prioritize fresh foods, emphasizing fresh over other forms. When looking at fresh consumption among individuals under the age of 40, it’s happening in greater numbers than it did among their predecessors 10 years ago. We see the opposite dynamic for those older than 40.

Millennials’ consumption of more fresh foods and beverages isn’t the whole explanation for their increased usage. Another key dynamic for fresh foods is that people tend to consume more of them as they age. We should expect this to continue for Millennials as well, who are already consuming more fresh foods than those at the equivalent life stage 10 years ago, but Boomers have hit a life stage when people typically consume the most fresh items in their lives. Despite the fact that Boomers aren’t consuming fresh foods in the same quantities as previous generations did at their age, the sheer size of their group is large enough to continue driving fresh consumption higher.

Source: The NPD Group/National Eating Trends® (NET®), Years Ending February

*Fresh food defined as fresh fruit, vegetables, refrigerated meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
End dish and additive/ingredient uses

Changing snack food consumption is another hot topic, but the drivers of change differ from what’s driving growth in fresh foods and beverages. Looking at snack foods, Millennials do not appear to be outliers. The changes we’re observing there are mostly attributable to overall increases with each generation as well as the natural tendency to snack more often with age. 

To learn more about generational versus life stage shifts in consumption contact darren.seifer@npd.com. 

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April 25, 2016

Do These Pants Make Me Look Vegan?

Wellness. The term is so ubiquitous nowadays that we rarely stop to think about it outside of the context of juicing, yoga, and expensive sweatpants. What does it actually mean to be well, and what does it mean to adopt a healthy lifestyle?

From spiralizers and coloring books, to burritos and boots that are sustainably-produced – consumers are buying all sorts of products to help them feel and look better. What else do they eat, buy, and wear to embody healthy living?

Read on for shopping trends in food, home, fitness, tech, fashion, beauty, and more industries. Discover what the top-growing retail categories have in common, how the wellness craze is playing out across different generations, and what it means for you as a manufacturer or retailer.

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March 3, 2016

Winning Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers With the Five Ws

Every journalist and student in America knows the so-called five Ws: who, what, when, where, and why. It turns out the same five Ws are also the most basic forms of consumer segmentation.

But relationships among the five Ws of shopping are a bit more complex than they are among the five Ws of writing. And the tales they tell are illuminating.

We shared online and brick-and-mortar, receipt-based data from our Checkout TrackingSM service with researchers from the Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania. The study revealed the what and the why of consumer purchases are linked to the when of consumers’ lifestyles. In other words, when people have babies, they buy baby things. But the how and where of purchases are tied to who a consumer is by generation.

Even when the other four Ws are the same, it’s who we are – Boomer, Gen X, or Millennial – that makes all the difference.

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December 10, 2015

Foodservice Brief — March 2016

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December 10, 2015

Food For Thought: Food and Beverage Habits To Expect In 2016

What we eat and drink each year might not change as quickly as the mobile phones we carry in our pockets, but food and beverage marketers should not take this as a license to rest on their laurels. Change has been brewing for decades.

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November 10, 2015

Segment And Sell To Gen Y: 10 Ways Younger and Older Millennials Shop Differently

10 Ways Younger and Older Millennials Shop Differently

The retail world is obsessed with Millennials.

It wouldn’t be a normal day if newsletters, tweets, and the media didn’t overflow with headlines on the latest Millennial trend, how to “harness” their alleged power, or how to reach this malleable and unpredictable segment.

Who are these Millennials? Do a quick Google search, and you’ll learn they’re foodies. Social media savants. Selfie experts. Experience seekers. Value hunters. Convenience junkies. Savvy shoppers. They’re “authentic.”

In demographic terms, they’re people between the ages of 18 and 34 who reached young adulthood around the year 2000.

But Millennials don’t like to be stereotyped as Millennials. We get it, Ryan Seacrest—they’re tired of being generalized into a broad demographic box and find the label patronizing. They just want to be treated as unique individuals.

When it comes to the wide-spanning age bracket, they do have a point—the difference between life in your late teens and life in your early 30s is pretty substantial. Do 18-year-old you and 34-year-old you want the same things, behave in the same way, or buy the same stuff?

With this in mind, we decided to divide the group into two smaller segments for study: younger and older Millennials. We set out to learn how these groups differ, both attitudinally and behaviorally, in their retail choices. We learned a lot, like the fact that older Millennials over-index in loyalty apps. And younger Millennials shop more at department stores.

If you’re a retailer or manufacturer looking to better understand the complexities of these highly-coveted sub-segments across the retail and foodservice spaces,

The Gen Y Gold Rush

Before we dive into retail specifics, let’s review an economic reality to set the context: U.S. Millennials haven’t had it so easy. Coming of age during the Great Recession, 13.8 percent of those 18-29 are unemployed or out of the workforce, far above the national jobless rate of 5.1 percent. And they’re a “boomerang” generation—33 percent stay at home with their families and fewer live independently. (Who can blame them? Seven out of 10 college grads from 2014 have a student loan, owing an average of $28,950 per borrower.)

But debt and other deterrents haven’t kept Millennials from buying things.

Any obsession with the Millennial demographic—also known as Gen Y—is with good reason. U.S. Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers by nearly 10 percent, surpassing them as the nation’s largest living generation in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They’re estimated to reach $1.4 trillion in annual spending by 2020—roughly one-third of all retail spending. So retailers and manufacturers need Gen Y’s share of wallet to increase their market share. And this dependence will only intensify as Boomers continue to age and the Millennial segment gains purchasing power. Frankly, if you’re a retailer who’s not focused on this budding segment, we’re seriously concerned. (Please call us immediately and we’ll help.)

Given that Millennials are such an expansive, diverse group, our Chief Industry Analyst Marshal Cohen reminds us that there are many ways to divide up this set for study; segmentation by age is just one way to showcase their differentiated spending. But make no mistake about it: age really does matter. As consumers navigate through shifts in life stage, it reflects back in their purchasing behavior.

Age Matters

When we divide the group into two segments (ages 18-24 and 25-34), there are already some major demographic differences to note. For one, older Millennials are more educated and have a higher income, shown by data collected by our partner, CivicScience. But with more than one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds still in college, they can’t be expected to have the same level of education or earning power. Older Millennials are less racially diverse and are primarily white (74 percent compared to 68 percent of young Millennials). A greater percentage of young Gen Yers are single/never married (80 percent compared to 44 percent of older Millennials), fewer are married (only 10 percent compared to 40 percent of older Millennials), and fewer parent a child (10 percent compared to 40 percent of the old Gen Y segment).

The two groups think and behave differently, too. Younger Millennials are more optimistic about the state of our economy. They’re less likely than their older counterparts to think Donald Trump would make a good president, and more likely to see the new “Star Wars” movie. Younger Millennials are more likely to applaud Bernie Sanders’ performance in the first Democratic debate. And they eat granola with a higher frequency than their elder Millennial brethren.

So how do these differences play out on the retail floor? Here are 10 ways the groups differ in their shopping behavior:

1. Young Gen Y Specialize in Beauty

We studied the receipts of 8,766 Millennials through our Checkout TrackingSM service, following the purchases they made during the first half of 2015, both online and offline. This revealed younger Millennials devoted a greater share of spend to specialty beauty retailers compared to the total Gen Y population. The younger set significantly over-indexed at retailers like Lush, meaning they are more likely than the senior Gen Y group to visit a specialty beauty retailer when they need new concealer or mascara.

But there were also some “neutral” beauty brands that earned consistent share of wallet across the Millennial age bracket. Both Gen Y groups devoted about 20 percent share of beauty spend to Bath & Body Works and 22 percent share to Sephora. The only specialty beauty retailers where older Millennials significantly over-indexed compared to their younger comrades were The Body Shop and bareMinerals.

But it’s not all about specialty shops when it comes to cosmetics. In an online poll of 15,031 U.S. adults conducted from January 2014 through January 2015 through our partner CivicScience, we asked respondents where they buy most of their makeup and cosmetics. The result? Millennials do the majority of this shopping (49 percent) at superstores like Walmart, Target, and Costco—a greater share compared to that of the total U.S. adult population (45 percent). And younger Millennials demonstrate a slightly greater affinity for superstore makeup than older Millennials.

When it comes to how Millennials shop for beauty products, their purchasing behavior is pretty consistent throughout the segment, but there are also some differences. Our Shopper Engagement survey fielded in August 2015 showed Millennials old and young are equally likely to browse in store and buy in store (58 percent). Younger Millennials are more likely than older Millennials to browse and buy online (20 percent vs. 17 percent), less likely to browse online and buy in store (14 percent vs. 15 percent), and less likely to browse in store and buy online (8 percent vs. 10 percent).


"With so many retailers and brands trying to court this segment, it becomes very competitive and challenging to win share of younger Millennials’ discretionary, hard-to-come-by spending"

Marshal Cohen

2. Young Millennials Shop More Specialty Apparel

The Millennial segments demonstrated the biggest discrepancy when we looked at share of wallet devoted to specialty apparel stores. Young Gen Yers like shopping in specialty stores for specific items, devoting 3.2 percent share of wallet to this retail channel, compared to older Millennials’ 2.1 percent share and the total adult population’s 1.9 percent share, shown by Checkout Tracking receipt data.

Marshal Cohen thinks reaching younger Millennials requires laser-like focus. “With so many retailers and brands trying to court this segment, it becomes very competitive and challenging to win share of younger Millennials’ discretionary, hard-to-come-by spending”, he explains. Millennials want to shop and play at places that market their products directly to them. If they feel you’re “for real,” or in other words, not only including them, but genuinely speaking directly to them—they will be more inclined to shop with you.

Specialty fashion retailers are the perfect example. We took a deep dive into data on some of these top retailers to see at which specific retailers younger Millennials over-indexed compared to more senior Millennials over a 12-month period. One look at the over-indexing stores on this list, and you’ll see just how these specialty stores fared with the younger Millennial.

Here we see very clearly how young Gen Yers spend a significantly lower share of their apparel spend at children’s retailers (Carter’s and The Children’s Place) compared to the older Millennial segment. The data reflects young Gen Yers’ preference for stores like Hollister and American Eagle over places like Ann Taylor and Banana Republic.

What we found particularly significant was the fact that two of the most neutral apparel retailers—Lululemon and The North Face—earned similar wallet share among Millennials of all ages, demonstrating activewear’s ability to transcend ages 18 to 34.

But Department Stores Aren’t Dead
Given younger Millennials’ affinity for specialty apparel retailers, perhaps we can understand Macy’s decision to mimic this specialty/boutique feel by opening a basement floor dedicated entirely to the younger consumer (Gen Z and young Millennials), only showcasing the brands most relevant to this age group.

But it is important to note that across the entire channel, Millennials of all ages devote a greater share of wallet to department store spend than the rest of the U.S. adult population. And younger Millennials are also more likely than older Millennials to have shopped at department stores. While the younger group is more likely to have shopped at Nordstrom, the older group is more likely to have shopped at Sears.

Interestingly, while younger and older Millennials differ in their likelihood to have shopped at Nordstrom (26 percent vs. 15 percent), the likelihood of the groups to have shopped at Nordstrom Rack, the fashion retailer’s off-price subsidiary, is not as polarizing (25 percent versus 22 percent respectively). Though less significant, younger Millennials are slightly more likely to have shopped at Marshall’s, while both age groups are equally likely to have shopped at TJMaxx.

3. Younger Millennials Are Sportier

Though activewear share of spend is consistent across the Millennial spectrum, budding Millennials are more likely than older ones to have shopped at sporting goods stores (29 percent vs. 20 percent reported to have shopped at one in the past year). The differences were significantly pronounced at REI (49 vs. 16 percent). There were also marked differences at footwear retailers Nike (40 vs. 19 percent) and Finish Line (32 vs. 19 percent).

So does this mean younger Millennials are more active than their older counterparts? Our Sports Industry Analyst Matt Powell shed light on this question. “I’ve been talking a lot about viewing the generational changes on a spectrum (from the oldest Boomer to the youngest Gen Zer), rather than as distinct and dramatic changes,” he explained. For example, Boomers are mostly white, conservative, less technically inclined, lavish, and not particularly focused on health or fitness. In contrast, Gen Z is less white, liberal, tech-reliant, frugal, and very health/fitness focused. And Millennials fit somewhere in between on this spectrum.

“So when we think of changes moving along a spectrum over time, it is logical that younger Millennials behave somewhat differently than older ones, and in this case—have a greater focus on fitness and health,” Matt explains.

That’s not to mention that as older Millennials buy homes and start families, they spend less money on themselves (and less on things like sports equipment), while the younger Gen Yers do not yet have those financial obligations.

4. Younger Millennials Eat Healthier, Cook Less, and Shop Wholesale

When it comes to the food and beverages they order, younger Millennials are more likely than older Millennials to look for benefits they can obtain by eating healthier, seeking items that provide energy, are filling, reduce stress, and build muscle. These are messaging opportunities for building a younger Millennial customer base.

In addition, young Gen Yers are more adventurous than older generations in their food choices, with 47 percent of younger versus 40 percent of older Millennials claiming to choose something new (compared to only 34 percent or less for older generations). And younger Millennials have other considerations when trying something new. For example, convenience is at the top of the list. Items that are quick to order, prepare, and consume with easy portability and little mess satisfy this need.

An analysis of data from CREST®, our flagship restaurant and foodservice information service, found the Millennial segment experienced the greatest decline in restaurant visits of any generation from 2007 to 2014. This decline was greatest among the older Millennial segment (the group more likely to have kids under age 13 in the household). And if you’ve ever been responsible for a child at a restaurant who is having a meltdown or making a concoction out the table condiments, you get it. Not to mention the impact of having more mouths to feed; the relatively cheaper expense of eating at home was the primary reason for the decline in visits among older Millennials. Healthy eating concerns also played an integral role in the decision to eat at home.

Older Millennials are also more into cooking than are younger Millennials, with just over half of the older segment saying they love or like to cook. It may be easier to attract younger Millennials back to restaurants because they are not as tied to cooking at home.

Last month Whole Foods revealed it will open a line of grocery stores specifically targeting the Millennial shopper. These smaller stores will offer curated, limited selections of products at value prices. While research indicates Millennials do like to specialize, our Checkout Tracking receipt data indicates an affinity for wholesale clubs across this segment. When it comes to at-home food purchasing, younger and older Millennials devoted the greatest share of wallet to wholesale clubs Costco and Sam’s Club, and were similarly likely to have shopped at each grocer. Younger Millennials over-indexed at BJ’s and Publix, but under-indexed at Safeway.


"When it comes to accessories, younger Millennials are not the robust market one would think they are..."

Marshal Cohen

5. Young Gen Yers Devote Less Spend to Accessories

Accessories are growing fastest among the Millennial segment. These consumers are responsible for the greatest share of the category’s purchases, with spending up 15 percent from one year ago. Younger Millennials, however, under-index (compared to total Millennials) in the share of wallet they devote to this category. We found this stat surprising, so we asked our Chief Industry Analyst, Marshal Cohen for his thoughts on the trend.

“When it comes to accessories, younger Millennials are not the robust market one would think they are,” Marshal explains. “Traditional thinking has younger Millennials spending more on accessories, as they tend to be more affordably priced than apparel items. But with less discretionary funds, young Millennials need to be very picky about what and when they buy. Spending across a wider scope of ‘necessities’ like phones, data plans, and even food competes for young Millennial spending on experiences—and that means things like accessories will fall short on the priority list for spending.”

6. Older Millennials Use More Loyalty Apps

Older Millennials are more likely than younger Millennials to be a member of a retailer’s loyalty program. But one surprising trend is that older Millennials are more likely than tech-reliant younger Millennials to have at least one retailer’s app downloaded on their mobile device (48 percent vs. 33 percent). The older group is also more likely to frequently use the downloaded app (46 percent often use their app to browse, look for product information, or shop compared to 38 percent of young Millennials). Older Gen Yers substantially over-indexed for use of mobile apps from Target, Walmart, CVS, Dollar General, eBay, Rite-Aid, Best Buy, Gamestop, and Costco.

7. Millennial Youth Need Less Stuff and Shop Less in Store

Younger Millennials are more likely than older Millennials (28 percent vs. 23 percent) to say they have shopped at brick-and-mortar stores less often than last year, primarily because they don’t need to buy as much as they used to (41 percent). This is also a factor of Millennials’ attraction to experiences, and their desire to do more and buy less.

Older Millennials are more likely than younger Millennials to shop less at brick-and-mortars because they cannot afford to shop as much as they used to (32 percent vs. 25 percent)—perhaps a reflection of the financial demands of parenting.

Both groups are similarly likely to have shopped at Amazon and to be members of their loyalty program, though younger Millennials are more likely to be familiar with Amazon as a place to buy consumer electronics. Older Millennials are more likely to have shopped at direct mail/e-commerce sites like eBay.

When it comes to shopping for apparel, younger Millennials are more likely than older Millennials to browse in store and buy in store (62 percent vs. 51 percent), but less likely to browse online and then buy in store (10 percent vs. 16 percent). Younger Millennials are also less likely than older ones to browse in store and buy online (8 percent vs. 14 percent).

8. Younger Gen Yers Are More Adam Levine, Older Are More Metallica

Our BrandLink® solution reports that if you’re looking for a celebrity endorsement that would appeal to Millennials of all ages, B.o.B. and JT are your guys (that’s Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr. and Justin Timberlake to all you non-Millennials). Both would be good fits to target younger Millennials (index 225 and 132 respectively) and older Millennials (index 167 and 137 respectively).

If you want to home in on younger Millennials, Adam Levine and Daniel Radcliffe are good choices (index 138 and 134 respectively), but they could miss the mark for older Millennials.

Only trying to target older Gen Y consumers? Metallica and Guns N’ Roses would fit the bill (index 130 and 121 respectively), but might not have the same recognition, let alone impact, with young Gen Yers.

9. Older Millennials Buy More Kids’ Stuff

Younger Millennials under-indexed compared to the total Millennial segment in child-related categories: baby products and toys. Specifically, older Millennials are more likely to have shopped at Babies R Us, The Children’s Place, Toys R Us, and Party City. This isn’t surprising, since the 18-24 segment is less likely than the 25-34 segment to parent a child. And in today’s day and age, baby photos don’t really start to take over your Facebook or Instagram feeds until you hit your mid-to-late-20s.

The same trend applies to pet products: older gen Yers are more likely than Millennial youngsters to have shopped at pet stores like PetSmart and Petco.

10. Older Millennials Have More Home-Related Expenses

We know it might sound shocking, but younger Millennials also under-indexed in home improvement, appliances, tools, and home textile purchases. Older Millennials are more likely to have shopped at home hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s in addition to home specialty stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, Crate and Barrel, West Elm, and Pottery Barn. But, really—no surprises here. What 20-year-old do you know who is remodeling her new home, buying a fancy KitchenAid, investing in a state-of-the-art power saw, or ordering a new line of linens? Let’s face it, whether you’re in school or starting your first job, it’s all about scrounging up repurposed furniture from older family and friends or simply sticking with mom and dad for a few more years until you get your feet on the ground. And when young Millennials finally do uproot themselves, typically this means moving to an urban environment where there are more jobs and inhabiting smaller, rented, and/or shared homes that require fewer furniture expenses.

Older and Younger Millennials: Two Distinct Segments

In the world of market research, people aged 18-34 are typically grouped into one giant segment for study. But they do not share the same experiences, think, or act the same. Half the group grew up on Britney Spears, the other on Justin Bieber. Some grew up with Facebook in middle school, while the rest didn’t create an account until after having their first child. Moreover, this 16-year span represents a pivotal coming-of-age period, and the differences between the oldest and youngest Millennial can be great, as evidenced by our top 10 list. It’s time to start treating these segments as two distinct groups, to better get to know them and to speak to them directly if we want to earn their precious spending power.

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October 15, 2015

Food for Thought: Consumer Economics – Impact On Food and Foodservice Industries

It might seem consumption patterns are extremely stable since there are relatively few changes from one year to the next, but rest assured there is movement – and it’s best to be prepared for it. These are some of the overarching and far-reaching changes noted in this year’s edition of Eating Patterns in America.

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July 9, 2015

The Business Case for Comparing Apples to Oranges

If you spend enough time looking at enough data, you’ll realize that correlations tend to fall into three categories:

  1. 1. The obviously useful, i.e., you’re a pizza maker who has seen your share of the market fall as a new competitor’s share has risen.
  2. 2. The dubious, i.e, when trying to find a way to overcome that share decline, you discover a near perfect correlation between increases in mozzarella consumption and increases in the number of civil engineering doctorates.
  3. 3. The seemingly dubious but actually quite useful, i.e, you’re a pizza maker who finds that your customers prefer Android phones to iPhones.

Finding the business value in that last category is not an easy proposition, however. It requires a bit of imagination and a bit of commitment. You have to look beyond the immediate -- wow, that’s kind of cool! -- to see what it might mean for your business -- wait, I can use that!

So let’s look at the business cases for unusual correlations.

CNBC published an article recently that used data from The NPD Group to look at what consumers’ phone operating systems said about their food choices. That article generated a fair amount of attention across social media. You may have come across it yourself on Twitter, LinkedIn or elsewhere. If not, take a moment to read “What your smartphone says about your waistline” now.

As the article says, new Checkout Tracking℠ data from The NPD Group shows a slew of surprising links between food preferences and cellphones. Folks who carry iPhones are more likely to eat soup and drink smoothies. Android users over-index for roast beef sandwiches and pizza (which is not to say that those over-indexers overeat. Who are we to judge?)

The correlations also extend to restaurant preferences. IPhone users can be found at Panera; Android users are over at Hardee’s.

So if you work in the IT department at one of the restaurant chains mentioned in the CNBC article, you now know exactly which phone system to prioritize in your app development.

But if you work anywhere else, it may not be immediately apparent what the business uses of such cool correlations may be….until you look deeper.

Hidden in plain sight

Checkout Tracking data is based on the millions of receipts sent to us and our technology partner, Slice Intelligence, by consumers. Those receipts yield detailed, item-level data about individual consumers across stores, across all retail segments, covering both online and brick and mortar, and over time.

Just think about that for a second: transaction-level detail across all retailers, across all channels and all time, at the individual buyer level.

Checkout Tracking can tell retailers what their most loyal customers do after they left their store. It can tell manufacturers what else customers bought when they picked up their product at a retailer. So let’s look at just a few of the less-than-obvious applications.

  • If you know what products customers bundle together at checkout, you can maximize the value of each customer visit
  • If you can see what percentage of your customers’ wallets are captured by others, you can determine your true competitive set and develop plans to boost your share of wallet
  • If you can learn what’s really lifting sales (penetration? frequency? purchase size?) you can spend your marketing dollars where they’ll count

Checkout Tracking yields loads of such fascinating correlations and less-than-obvious business applications. In addition to food, NPD tracks 20 other industries, including games. Here are a few correlations from the uber-hot category of Millennial gamers:

  • Male Millennial mobile games buyers spend more of their dollars on Uber and Apple.com. They also spend more online dollars on Travel and Movies and TV.
  • Female Millennial mobile games buyers spend more of their dollars on Groupon. And they spend more online dollars on pet supplies and online deals.

Data like that suggests, for example, that the best way to reach female gamers may be through online deal sites. Or if you own a pet store, you may want to consider in-game advertising.

If you’d like to know more about how Checkout Tracking would work for your business, fill out the form to the right.

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May 20, 2015

Hungry for Insights?

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January 16, 2015

Six Retail Insights Hidden in Data

There are problems you cannot see. There are opportunities that are hidden from you. That’s the nature of business. But problems and opportunities can be uncovered. The trick is to learn to look for the deeper truths within the billions of bits of data generated in the retail world.

That search for your deeper truths is our business. We’re good at it. We see what others cannot.

And we’d like to share with you some of what we’ve found by looking in places where others can’t, and by using tools that others don’t have.

As is often the case, we can’t share the exact truths we found for our clients. And as is always the case, we protect the confidentiality of those who do business with us.

So what follows are real stories of real companies finding real truths. The details are changed just enough so that the companies remain anonymous, but the insights we found can be shared.

Take a look at these six stories inspired by case studies of companies with challenges that may be like yours.

Their successes could be yours … if you’ll work with us to look deeply at the data.

Your customers are also their customers

Recently we helped two food packagers and two supermarket chains find new ways of understanding — and selling to — particular groups of shoppers.

In one case, a food brand asked for NPD’s help in understanding how a particular supermarket chain’s customers ate both in-home and away from home.

We pulled together data from our Eating Patterns in America study, the National Eating Trends® (NET®) database (which tracks the eating habits of thousands of consumers), the CREST® database (which contains information on 400,000 consumer visits a year to restaurants and other foodservice operations), and a variety of census figures to create a portrait of how that chain’s customers spent money on food — regardless of where such money was spent. The results were illuminating. The core insights were that customers of the supermarket chain came from smaller and more affluent households, ate roughly a quarter of their meals away from home, and spent roughly half of their total food expense on those dining-out experiences. The food manufacturer and the retailer decided there was an opportunity in combining forces to create higher-end offerings aimed at capturing a greater share of overall spend. Another food manufacturer we worked with had grown concerned over anecdotal and media reports that consumers were changing their eating habits … and losing interest in the core of their offering.

We urged the company to look a bit deeper at information our Shopper Insights team put together on the consumers of one particular supermarket chain. As it turned out, sales of the manufacturer’s key brand at that chain were well above the national average. There was something about the products that resonated with that particular chain’s customers. The food manufacturer took that information to the chain, which was duly impressed, and opened shelf space for additional SKUs.

Follow the money

Last year we heard from a men’s clothing maker that said it was suffering from a fairly common problem these days — failing to reach the Millennial consumer.

Or at least that’s what the company thought was the problem.

The manufacturer had received some very bad news from one of its retail partners — a report showing one of its core product lines wasn’t selling well to Gen Y men. The report had come from another market research supplier, and the retailer was threatening to pull the product line from its shelves.

But when we took a look at the data, we saw a completely different story: The line was actually performing better than rival products at that very same retailer.

At issue was the level of data looked at.

NPD’s measurements included cash transactions … the report from the other market researcher did not. And when cash transactions were added to card transactions, the manufacturer’s product line looked pretty good indeed.

The manufacturer took our data to its retail partner and argued successfully that pulling the line made no sense.

In addition, NPD data suggested that the manufacturer was failing to take advantage of some of the fastest-growing trends among younger consumers.

The manufacturer quickly switched its product mix at the retailer to try to win greater penetration in areas where it actually was underperforming — opportunities that the other market research company’s data had failed to uncover.

Sometimes their customers aren’t your customers … yet

Sometimes your greatest opportunities exist well outside your usual business. Companies engage in brand extensions and line extensions on a fairly regular basis. But in such cases it’s the brand’s equity that helps open markets.

But what about when a brand has little to no equity in the new target market?

Recently we worked with a giant of the packaged foods business that makes a number of brands that are in cupboards and refrigerators across America.

But the company wanted to grow its presence in the foodservice business — where it had considerably less influence. The company owned a number of foodservice-specific brands, but they were not as well-known as their consumer brands.

The company recognized that it needed to build its reputation and influence among foodservice distributors if restaurants, cafeterias, and other end-users were to start buying its foodservice brands. NPD agreed to help.

By applying our modeling and analytics expertise to a wide variety of data sources, we began the process of helping to turn the consumer-foods company into an expert in the foodservice business. By looking deeply at the information in the CREST and NET databases, and then conducting attitudinal and motivational surveys, a previously unknown level of detail emerged about the customers of specific restaurant chains.

The company was then able to take that information directly to the restaurants — showing them what a chain’s customers ate both at home and away from home, how frequently they visited the chain, and what they expected to find when they did go to a restaurant. Most importantly, the company was able to show restaurants what their own customers liked in food, opening the door to menu-planning collaboration.

Today the company’s foodservice operation is recognized as a valued partner by the restaurant chains it targeted.

Getting in with the in crowd

A few years ago, one of our retail clients decided to revamp some key stores. The idea was to capture a larger share of a handful of markets, particularly price- and fashion-conscious Millennial women.

Part of that plan called for increasing the floor space it dedicated to a particular type of clothing. The retailer came to NPD looking for input.

We dived deep into the issue — looking at data, running analytics, conducting store visits, and running consumer surveys.

The opportunities we uncovered were numerous, but two in particular proved crucial.

First, the data and analysis showed clearly that the retailer was moving too slowly at the start of the spring fashion season. In the crucial month of May, although dollar volume was rising, the retailer’s share was falling. The retailer had to get new items on the floor faster.

Second, we showed that the retailer wasn’t carrying one key brand that Millennial women seemed to adore. Sales of that brand were rising 20 times faster than the rest of the channel. The retailer needed to reach a distribution deal with that brand, or miss out on fair share opportunity in excess of $5 million.

The retailer changed its tactics and pursued the opportunities we had uncovered.

The retailer began shipping its spring inventory earlier … adding several crucial weeks of sales. And that brand that has sales growth 20 times faster than the rest of the channel? You can buy it now in a dedicated section of those revamped stores.

Weakness in key weeks

Every manufacturer and every retailer knows that the weeks of the year are not of equal importance. If, for example, you sell pencils and backpacks, you know that there is time in the late summer — the “back-to-school” season — that can either make or break you. But key weeks can also make and break you.

It’s fairly common for a company to look at the numbers from its key weeks and see only the obvious (sales are up!) and miss the less-than-obvious (everyone’s sales are up, and our market share fell!).

Recently we worked with two brands from very different spaces that had just such a blind spot. In the first example, a clothing manufacturer, let’s call it Brand X, thought that things were going quite well. Sales were rising most every month compared with a year earlier. But that was only half the picture.

When we looked at the manufacturer’s weekly sales data, we found a very different story. The entire segment was seeing sales rise on a monthly and annual basis — but Brand X was lagging behind its rivals in key weeks. While Brand X’s overall sales were better than before, they were worse than those of competitors in the most important times of the year. Brand X was losing share in a rising market.

We saw a situation with a children’s product manufacturer that was both quite similar and quite different. Sales of one of its most longstanding brands, let’s call it Product Y, were declining. The parent company needed to move quickly to re-strategize and turn things around.

This time, a look at weekly data and Account Level Reports (in which retailers allow manufacturers to see detailed information about how their items perform) showed the issue could be price related.

The marketplace was flooded with dramatically deep discounts of items that competed with Product Y, causing both a key retailer and the manufacturer to lose dollar share in one of their largest categories. And those discounts got deeper during the key pre-Christmas season.

As it turned out, price collaboration was required between the retailer and the manufacturer to better position Product Y during key times of the year.

Finding solutions to situations such as those faced by Brand X and Product Y isn’t easy (and will likely involve a lot of conversations with retailers). But the solutions can only be found when we look at the right set of data and uncover the real problems.

Fowl play

There is a question that has plagued philosophers from every culture and in every age: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

In retail, we pose that question in a slightly different fashion: Does a brand become the best-seller in a category because consumers like it best, or because more stores carry it?

As it turns out, the answer is clear … if you look at the right data in the right way.

Recently some folks at NPD were looking at the sales figures from a segment of consumer electronics. At first blush, the story appeared to be the classic chicken/egg scenario: there was one brand that dominated. It outsold everything else. And it was sold everywhere. Perhaps consumers loved it. Or perhaps retailers thought that consumers loved it, so they carried it to the exclusion of rival brands.

But when we began to look at a measurement we call velocity, the answer was far more complex. In science, velocity is generally defined as a measure of speed in a specified direction. But in retail, velocity can also be thought of as a measure of love.

In velocity we look at the sales figures but control for distribution — which is research-speak that means looking at how well something sells at the places where it’s actually available. That yields a metric that more closely tracks how consumers feel about a brand or a product when they have an option to select it.

What we found in that consumer electronics segment was fascinating.

There was a brand in the space that seemed to receive little overall love from consumers. And the brand’s overall sales and distribution levels coincided with that interpretation.

But that brand had one item — let’s call it the Golden Goose — with extraordinary velocity. In stores where it was available, consumers flocked to the product.

Looking just at national sales numbers, there were 30 rival products that sold better than the Golden Goose. But after adjusting for distribution, the Golden Goose was the eighth best-seller in its category.

It turned out that people loved the Golden Goose. They just couldn’t find it at a lot of places. Suddenly the makers of the Golden Goose had a compelling story to share with retailers and a strong argument to make for wider distribution of that product.

Perhaps more importantly, at least to philosophers, the answer to the age-old question had been found. It’s neither the chicken nor the egg that comes first. It’s the goose.

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Insights and Opinions from our Analysts and Experts

March 4, 2016

“There’s a war on sugar – not candy”

I just returned from the National Confectioners Association’s State of the Industry conference where the phrase, “There’s a war on sugar – not candy,”  seemed to be a recurring theme. In today’s age of sugar avoidance, it might seem like a Hail Mary pass from an industry trying to navigate through tough headwinds, but when you look at consumers’  actual wants and needs it makes sense.

For full disclosure, I am one of the many people who want to avoid sugar in their diets and I actively try to avoid sweets whenever possible. I make eggs in the morning to avoid the simple carbs in many cold cereals, at lunch I opt for whole wheat bread for my sandwiches, and at dinner I try to use vegetables as side dishes and avoid rice and bread.

Every once in a while, however, I’ll get a craving for some nice chocolate and when I sink my teeth into it, I feel a rush of satisfaction and forget all the thoughts about avoiding sugar because my mouth AND mind are experiencing such a degree of bliss.

NPD’s ongoing snacking research reflects similar sentiments among consumers when it comes to their sweets. They try to avoid them, but they love them nonetheless. When you look at what we snack on over the course of the day, better-for-you items like fruit, yogurt, and savory snacks are the snacks of choice earlier in the day. It’s not until around 8 pm that we allow ourselves sweet indulgences. Maybe we want to reward ourselves for being good up to that point or are so tired our discipline is depleted.

This is why I’ve said during my snacking presentations that it’s not a matter of altering candy products to appeal to those who are watching their sugar intake, it’s a matter of  appealing to the wants and emotions of consumers at the time of day when they are most likely to indulge in sweets. Point being that there is no war on candy…at least not in the evening.

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December 9, 2015

That Was Then

If you’re old enough (and you probably aren’t), you remember when chicken sandwiches were once new, innovative items on fast food menus. And then, when fried chicken took on a less-than-healthful patina, grilled chicken sandwiches were brought in to address issues of healthy preparation.  One wonders where the grill lines came from in restaurants that had no char broilers?

In the late ’80′s we were pretty limited in how we asked consumers what they ate.  Due to the space constraints in the CREST foodservice market research paper diary we used in those days, we could only present consumers with a (pretty short) list of possible items.  One drawback to this was that consumers might tell us they had a food item at a chain that we knew the chain didn’t sell.

This brings me back to chicken sandwiches.  We found that consumers were reporting a fair number of broiled chicken sandwiches at a chain that we knew did not offer broiled chicken sandwiches.  When we looked into this more carefully we found that lower income men were reporting fried chicken sandwiches, just as they should have.  Higher income women, exactly the people you’d think would be eating broiled chicken, were reporting broiled chicken sandwiches. That is, the people who wanted fried, reported fried. The people who aspired to broiled reported broiled.

That was then.

Nowadays in the US we ask a whole bunch more stuff about what people are eating in our CREST consumer foodservice research.  We ask toppings.  We ask bread type.  We ask salad dressing.  We even ask if the consumer used flavored cream in their coffee. For the largest chains we insert the chain’s menu into the questionnaire. We also present the respondents with a bunch of attributes (organic, low fat, gluten free, locally sourced and bunches more) and ask if any of these attributes apply to the foods they ate in the meal they are telling us about.

So, here’s the cool thing:  we can look at different demographic groups and see what kinds of attributes the foods they’re eating have.  And, because we’re analysts, we can compare them and jump to conclusions. Because of the chicken sandwich experience, I was sure that the Millennials would be all over the “organic” and whatever while Boomers would skew to “low sodium” and stuff like that.  Y’d think, wouldn’t ya?

But, and this is always a disappointment to an analyst, there isn’t much of a difference between young’ns and old’ns.  Yes, the young are more likely than the old to identify some sort of attribute. And, yes older consumers are more likely to say “healthy” and young ones “high protein,” but there isn’t much difference for things like “organic” or “vegetarian” or even “low sodium.” These attributes amount to and offer that which appeals to everyone. And people are taking restaurants (even chains) up on that offer more and more.

BUT…not all organic food has an equal chance of being Snapchatted.

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December 1, 2015

It’s A Chicken! It’s A Doughnut! It’s A Chicken Doughnut!

Everyone is on the qui vive for the next wildly inventive food fad. Who knows, maybe for the next fad even people living here around the global food blog’s mountain redoubt will get a chance to eat/see the exciting new thing. We can all hope.

Remember when there was no Cajun food outside of Louisiana?  Probably not.  You have to be kind of old to remember when Paul Prudhomme published his first cookbook and the country went crazy for all things Cajun.  There was a surfeit of new Cajun restaurants in Chicago and non-Cajun restaurants all had “blackened something” on their menus.

No sooner had the excitement settled into a dull roar than the food press began talking about the “next Cajun.”  Would it be Jamaican?  Maybe Indian (still waiting).  Could it be Middle Eastern? These days we’re thinking that maybe Peruvian could be it. The truth is that nothing has hit the food world quite like Cajun did in 1983 and 84.  And don’t tell me Mexican;  that just means you’re from the Northeast.  And don’t tell me Thai; that predates Cajun in my food timeline.

Then the Cronut came along and, in its own way, became the next Cajun.  Sorta.  I’m pretty sure the words written about the Cronut out number the count of the people who ate the real thing by a factor of about 10.  It spawned the phrase “the next Cronut.”

Speaking of the next Cronut, we’re getting ready to launch CREST Korea, our ongoing foodservice market research. We’ve already done a pilot to prepare for the launch and found that:

1.  Koreans (like everyone) like their own food and their own brands.  The fast food landscape is dominated by Korean chains.

2.  Coffee and Cafes play a larger role in the Korean foodservice market than you might expect.

3.  Bakeries?  Who knew?…including Paris Baguette, which was recently identified by a US trade mag as being “French.” One look at the place, with the self service, the trays, and the tongs tells you this is Asian, not European.

4. Bulgogi is delightful.  OK, that’s not the data talking.  That’s me.  But it is, 100%, a fact.

So now we and our CREST Korea clients are ready. Data collection will kick off on 1 January and will continue (as I tell everyone) until the end of time; just as is the case in any of the 12 countries where we have a CREST service. This spell of time before launch, no matter how far in advance we start, is always kind of frantic as we review build-after-build of the questionnaire until it’s just right…then we will translate it to Korean and start all over again.

Part of that process is to actually take the questionnaire over and over again to see if it breaks during any sequence of answers.  It’s good to have an actual visit to a restaurant in mind when taking the questionnaire or a person can get lost. For the big chains, we present respondents with the chain’s actual menu to tell us what they had to eat or drink.

And, there on Burger King Korea’s menu, as I was testing the questionnaire, were the words “chicken doughnut.”  Those two words, chicken and doughnut, together for the first time. You don’t need a good reason to go to Seoul. It’s lovely.  And the Koreans do things with chicken that will make you smack your lips.

But if you want a shot at the next big thing? Chicken Doughnuts.  ’Nuff said.

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