By Codi Vallery-Mills

Whiles 70 percent of American consumers say food labels are important and they buy based on what is claimed, in reality only 3 percent of consumers read labels. That’s according to Tom Rabaey of General Mills who spoke at the South Dakota Farm Bureau annual convention in Rapid City, Nov. 17. 

Rabaey along with Anne Sherod of Smithfield Foods gave attends a look at what is happening with consumer interests, trends and ultimately marketing as consumers are demanding certain foods, but maybe aren’t digging into the labels.

Rabaey explains that the three things that keep consumers coming back to a product are still the same as in years past. Those are price, convenience and taste. However, he says there is a greater push for “better for you” products than in years past. General Mills has seen a 12 percent growth in their organic foods. The reason? Consumers tell the company they are concerned with pesticides and chemicals in their foods.

Alongside the “better for you” products are consumers’ need for nature. “Consumers are reverting back to nature because they feel it is healthier, better for the world and trustworthy,” Rabaey says. Sixty-seven percent of consumers will purchase a food if they deem it is healthier. 

General Mills is responding to that need for nature by leveraging their farmer relations. The company believes in the farm and soil health initiatives in farming. “We are beginning to tell the farm side of the story to our consumers more and you will see that soon in our Cheerios product,” Rabaey says.


Defining Trends

While Rabaey gives a glimpse of what is trending in food right now, Sherod gives understanding into who is creating the trend. Not surprisingly the Baby Boomer and Millennial generations are the biggest forces because they have the most in population and buying power, but the two vary greatly on consumption trends.

Younger generations want a minimum waste food product – using nose-to-tail – while older generations what to see classic foods without a twist back on their menus and in their grocery aisles. 

Sherod says there is good news for each generation. Traditional breakfast items are set to make a come-back in 2019. “Expect to see classic hearty meals once again,” she says. And for the younger generation, major food companies are investing research dollars in different additive and production methods to help create products millennials can feel good about. 

Want to look further down the road in food trends? Sherod says to watch Europe. “European trends are what help set U.S. trends. What is big there will be big in the U.S. two to five years later.”