Refrigerated and Frozen Foods: Ca$h in On Food Trend$
By Kathie Canning
Through a special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt
of an article from Refrigerated and Frozen Foods magazine, presented
here for discussion.
Is it a fad or is it a trend? Yes, the words often
are used interchangeably – but in reality, they convey two very different
meanings. For most food companies, trends represent more logical focus
areas than fads for product launches and formulation changes. The challenge,
then, is in understanding the factors that pave the way for current fads
to become long-term trends.
Harry Balzer, a vice president with The NPD Group, said each serves a different consumer need.
“We like to try new things – whether it be a new gadget for our home or some new piece of clothing or a new flavor,” Mr. Balzer noted. “That’s the beginning of a fad. The question is: Will it become a trend?”
“It’s going to be a trend if it serves some basic values beyond just being new,” he said. “If this new thing that I just tried saves me time or saves me money, I’m probably going to do it again, and I’m probably talking about a trend.”
Carefully planned research can help food processors determine whether or not a phenomenon has ‘enough legs’ to become a true trend.
“In the early stages, it’s sometimes difficult to determine the difference between trend and fad,” said Carol Fitzgerald, president of BuzzBack Market Research. “Clients often conduct early-stage exploratory research to understand and identify some of the early behavior changes, then measure these changes at different time points to see if they continue. I think there’s room for processors and end clients to work together to partner on research and develop solutions.”
One mistake that marketers sometimes make, according to Andy Hines, director of consulting for Social Technologies, is considering trends – or potential trends – in isolation.
“It may be that ‘fads’ are resting upon more stable trends,” Mr. Hines said, “and manifest themselves differently over time. We use the example of an iceberg to illustrate [this]. You may see the fads above the surface of the water, but they may be resting on larger, sturdier trends beneath the surface.”
Many of today’s widely touted “trends” actually are fads, said Mr. Balzer.
“Whole grains, dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, omega 3 – all of these are things that Americans are increasingly asking to be part of their diet,” he said. “But do they save you time or save you money? You might walk away saying, in fact, that they cost you more. So the only value they have is their ability to track ‘new.'”
But that’s not necessarily a negative.
“They could be long-lasting new things,” said Balzer. “After all, it took a while for salsa to get from San Antonio to Boston.”
Discussion Questions: Do you have your own theory on the difference between fads and trends, and when you know a fad is turning into a trend? Is there a strategy for capitalizing on a potential trend while mitigating risks that it might be a fad?