Gone are the days of fast food glory.
The past 10 years has seen a drastic change in consumer food consumption habits. It’s no secret that today’s generation of millenials are no longer drawn toward fast, accessible, processed foods. Kale, gluten-free and organic are taking over nationwide and large food corporations need to clean up their act if they want to keep up.
Big brands hit hard
The current change taking place in the food industry has hit some of the biggest brands in the game hard. The consequences are dire and none of the big players are safe. Per capita soda sales dropped 25 percent since 1998, being replaced mostly by water. Orange juice, once thought to be a nutritious addition to breakfast, has dropped 45 percent per capita in the same period, as consumers take notice of the unhealthy amounts of sugar in each glass. Another sugar-riddled product feeling the burn is packaged cereal, dropping 25 percent since 2000 and being replaced completely by yogurt and granola. Frozen dinner sales have also dropped nearly 12 percent from 2007 to 2013 and sales per outlet at McDonald’s fast food restaurants have been in a downward spiral for almost three years with no end in sight.
The New Food Age
The average consumer is finally waking up to the corruption and deception present in packaged food companies’ marketing schemes, corporate-sponsored research and government lobbying. Center-of-store packaged products conjure up images of foods stripped of their nutrition, packing unheard of amounts of sugars, chemicals and genetically modified components. Nobody will turn a blind eye to that anymore. Today’s consumers are spending more time in the fresh produce sections of grocery stores, purchasing raw fruits and vegetables, meats, bakery items and fresh prepared foods. This is evident as sales of fresh prepared foods skyrocket nearly 30 percent since 2009 and sales of center-of-store packaged goods continue to fall.
Step in the right direction
If the big food corporations want to be able to survive in the new-age food landscape they need to take drastic efforts and perform complete overhauls of their organizational structure.
In an effort to appease the new-age consumer, big brands have announced some fresh changes in a healthier direction. General Mills announced it will drop all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm have begun to limit the use of antibiotics in their chicken. Kraft proclaimed it would drop artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese and Hershey’s will begin to distance itself from ingredients that no one can pronounce or understand. These are all steps in the right direction; however they are still baby steps and if these brands want to be able to compete with the new boys in town such as, Amy’s Kitchen, Honest Tea, Annie’s Homegrown and Happy Baby, they need to do more than slight changes in products and acquisition-driven strategies. Simply acquiring healthy brands will not prove lucrative as the acquired companies are too small to make a difference in their buyers’ revenues. The food companies we all grew up with need to make bold changes in their core product offerings such has significantly cutting sugar, processing less and going local and organic if they want any hope for survival.
The future may sound grim, but these companies do have the resources to restructure and rebuild their supply chains. The more us consumers gravitate towards healthier food, the more we encourage the giants of the industry to follow us.