OPERATIONS

Future consumer trends include emphasis on human services and artisan goods

BY Marianne Wilson

Chicago — Automation and mass production will continue to make life easier in the years ahead, but consumers and companies will react by valuing – and promoting – human services and artisan goods. That’s one of the key trends research firm Mintel predicts will be impacting consumer behavior in the next five to 10 years.

As part of its lunch of Mintel Futures, a new program designed to forecast long-term industry trends, Mintel identified six key trends affecting the global consumer market in the near future:

1. Human: Today’s consumers are chiefly experiencing automatic service in the form of storefront retail technologies, such as self-checkout terminals and mobile self-scanners, and many are warming to the concept. But moving forward automation is going to be about cutting to the chase and skipping past laborious processes to allow consumers to get to the experience or the product more quickly.

"For companies this means offering a choice between human expertise and automated fast-tracking in service, and adding customer customization and artisan suppliers to the product supply line,” said Richard Cope, director of insight and trends at Mintel.

2. Generation Next: A poor economy is challenging teenagers’ ability to rebel, to progress and to stay healthy, but they are also better connected than their parents and growing up in an era where sustainability and gender equality are higher on the agenda. This means teens need – and expect – more from companies, according to Mintel.

“To capitalize on the potential of this next generation of key consumers, companies must acknowledge that teens are growing up in the midst of debates surrounding sustainability, ethical sourcing and gender equality and may need to be more transparent, more ethical and more progressive to win their favor and custom," said Cope.

3. Old Gold: Whether retired, working or in need of care, the elderly are the key consumer demographic.

4. East Meets West: Asia can become the key cultural, as well as commercial, influence.

5. Access Anything Anywhere: Our smartphones and tablets won’t just change the way we communicate, they will change the way we live.

6. Brand Intervention: The state will force corporations to become more responsible for consumers.

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ConAgra completes Ralcorp buy

BY CSA STAFF

OMAHA, Neb. & ST. LOUIS —ConAgra Foods has completed its acquisition of Ralcorp Holdings. ConAgra Foods agreed to acquire Ralcorp on Nov. 26, 2012, for $90.00 in cash per share of Ralcorp common stock. The closing of the transaction follows the approval of the acquisition by Ralcorp’s shareholders on January 29, and the receipt of all required regulatory approvals.

With 36,000 employees and sales of approximately $18 billion annually, the combined company is one of the largest packaged food companies in North America. The transaction also positions ConAgra Foods as the largest private brand packaged food business in North America, with approximately $4.5 billion in combined annual private brand sales.

Gary Rodkin, chief executive officer of ConAgra Foods said, “We are excited to have closed the transaction and welcome our talented new team members from Ralcorp to the ConAgra Foods family. We are now in a position to begin the most substantial aspects of integration planning and look forward to learning from and working with our new colleagues. This important acquisition reinforces and accelerates our ‘Recipe for Growth’ strategy, which also includes growth in our core business and adjacencies, and expansion internationally.”

ConAgra Foods will continue to be headquartered in Omaha and led by chief executive officer Gary Rodkin. Kevin Hunt, former CEO of Ralcorp, will be a consultant to ConAgra Foods for the next 12 months. Richard Koulouris, VP and president of the Ralcorp Food Group, and Charles Huber, VP and president of the Ralcorp Frozen Bakery business, will report directly to Gary Rodkin, effective immediately. ConAgra Foods has established an integration team, led by a steering committee of senior leaders from ConAgra Foods and Ralcorp, and staffed by a full support network of dedicated resources.

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Ahold names head merchant

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — Ahold USA has named Mark McGowan as EVP merchandising. He will lead a merchandising team that supports Ahold USA and its four divisions: Stop & Shop New England, Stop & Shop New York Metro, Giant Landover and Giant Carlisle.

McGowan had previously served as EVP supply chain for Ahold USA and previously led the Boston division of Stop & Shop.

McGowan’s direct reports include Jeff Dichele, SVP non-perishables merchandising; John Ruane, interim senior vice president of fresh merchandising; Jodie Daubert, SVP sales development; Raymond McCall, SVP pharmacy & HBC merchandising; and Roger Wheeler, SVP Oracle Program Lead.

In other Ahold USA news, sales in U.S stores for the fourth quarter were up 4.3% from the same period last year. Ahold said the strong performance was partly driven by the exceptional efforts of staff teams during Hurricane Sandy, which enabled stores to remain open and to serve customers. Ahold said market share has gained in all USA divisions.

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