Catering to the Time-pressed

Sarah Theodore

The Washington Post recently explored the concept of on-the-go consumers and the lengths beverage and food companies have gone to in order to reach them. The article looked at new on-the-go concepts in powdered drink stick packs, candy bars (were candy bars ever not convenient and portable?) and breakfast foods.
“Convenience is big, time is limited, blah, blah, blah,” wrote staff writer Monica Hesse in the piece. “But this latest trend, in which foods are cunningly sold as On the Go even if their Go-ness was never in doubt, underscores the bigness of the concept in today’s society. Is the production and purchasing of these foods really about saving time, or does buying them fulfill a deeper need?” Like the iPod, she says, on-the-go foods are an answer to America’s reluctance to be tied down.
The NPD Group, a market research group based in Port Washington, N.Y., also touched on the way on-the-go consumption is changing the way products are sold at retail. It recently released information on foodservice trends at retail locations that show they are outpacing foodservice at traditional restaurants and casual dining locations. According to the company, foodservice operations at retail outlets such as convenience stores, supermarkets, discount stores and price clubs grew 5 percent year-to-date vs. 4 percent for traditional quick-service restaurants, 2 percent for casual dining and a negative 3 percent for mid-scale restaurants. Nearly 8 billion meals and snacks were purchased at retail locations that previously catered to at-home consumption.
Even in traditional grocery, consumers’ on-the-go needs are being felt. The highly anticipated opening of Tesco’s Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets in the United States, and Whole Foods’ announcement that it will convert some Wild Oats locations to grab-and-go Whole Foods Market Express locations both are examples of the ways retailers are trying to adapt to time pressures.
Whether Americans truly are busier and more time-pressed, or as Hesse suggests, simply want to believe they are, the trend has affected both product development and beverage industry relationships with retailers. Some on-the-go products such as powdered drink stick packs have completely reinvigorated their categories. And catering to supermarket take-out customers offers new opportunities for merchandising and display. Beverage Industry Managing Editor Elizabeth Fuhrman has developed this month’s Beverage Product Guide supplement specifically to help Beverage Industry readers keep track of retail trends. And be sure to see our October report on retail initiatives for more on how to navigate this ever-changing part of the business.
Sneak Peek
Cover Story — Naked Juice
Category Focus — Private label
Beverage R&D — Performance beverages
Packaging — Green packaging solutions
Distribution — “Winterizing” trucks

Category Focus — Dairy drinks and dairy alternatives
Beverage R&D — Color innovations
Packaging — Promotional packaging
Distribution — 2008 truck roundup