ATLANTA — During his keynote address at the Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association’s annual technical conference held May 1-4 in Atlanta, Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the American Bakers Association gave attendees a run-down on the latest consumer trends based on Nielsen data.
|Robb MacKie, president and c.e.o. of the A.B.A.|
“From a dollar sales perspective, 2015 was strong,” Mr. MacKie said. “But it was relatively flat in terms of unit sales. In those terms, we still have some work to do.”
In the 52 weeks ended Dec. 26, 2015, total supermarket gains for all departments had reached $82 billion, a 2.4% increase over the previous year. However, unit sales remained relatively flat with only a 0.2% increase.
Mr. MacKie identified a few impediments to growth, including anemic economic growth and stagnant wages.
“This isn’t intended to be a political statement,” Mr. MacKie said. “It’s a statement of fact.”
With only 0.5% economic growth projected for the first part of this year, he suggested that a 3% increase is the magic number to see more significant growth.
He also pointed to e-commerce as a barrier to supermarket growth, especially in the center aisles. He noted that with companies such as Mondelez significantly bolstering their e-commerce efforts, announcing its goal to reach $1 billion in direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales, “I think you’ll start seeing some pull away from traditional retail outlets,” Mr. MacKie said. He suggested that cookie and cracker manufacturers should start exploring their e-commerce opportunities to digitally reach consumers directly where they live.
Another major trend is taking place in the health and wellness space, an area where cookie and cracker makers need to pay attention to in regard to consumer attitudes toward the food industry as a whole. According to Nielsen’s Health and Wellness Report from January 2015, 56% of Americans view food with a skeptical eye, compared with 63% globally.
“We all know everything we’re doing in food safety, product quality — all the great improvements that have been made toward the health profiles of our products,” Mr. MacKie said. “Unfortunately, we’re not getting that message to the consumers effectively.”
Whether it’s increased fiber, reduced fat, sodium or sugar, or any other health claim, Mr. MacKie urged attendees to pay close attention to the needs of the consumers and work with their customers to effectively meet those needs — and communicate them properly.“Invest in the research to understand the opportunities and this marketplace,” he said. “Look for the drivers — the categories that are going to drive growth.”