I am working at my dining room table one morning in late February when I overhear a remarkable conversation taking place in the kitchen. Our two youngest kids, ages five and eight, are eating breakfast when suddenly the youngest, Jake, pipes up.
"My cereal has whole grain," he announces to his sister. He can't read yet, so how he knows this I'm not sure, but I have to assume he has made the connection between the images he sees on TV commercials and the big Whole Grain "logo" General Mills has splashed on the front of its cereal boxes. Score one for the power of advertising.
Big sister Emily, never one to be outdone, turns her attention to the side of her cereal box and shoots back: "Yeah, well my cereal only has 10 grams of sugar!"
I don't know what your kids talk about at the breakfast table, but I was astounded by this conversation. Astounded that they were reading the nutrition information in the first place, and that they were trying to one-up each other on the nutritional value of their cereal choice.
This little scenario may have been more about sibling rivalry than concern for nutrition, but it still makes an important point: With each generation, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about what they put into their bodies. And, in general, the younger those consumers are, the more they are aware and concerned.
Of course, you probably see plenty of evidence to the contrary every day in your stores. And therein lies one of the greatest marketing and merchandising challenges you face: coping with the dichotomy between what consumers say they want and what they actually do when it comes to the food and beverage choices they make.
No one should envy retailers who have to sort this out. I know what a "Jekyll & Hyde" I can be when it comes to food; I yearn for things that are better for me but taste just like the decadent stuff I crave. I haven't found that many so far.
But your future in foodservice