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Food for Thought: Trends Micro Market Operators Need to Know in 2022

January 27, 2022

Food Trends Operators Need to Know in New Year
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Before micro markets, vending operators have always paid close attention to what their local grocers stocked in the snack, soda and refrigerated aisles. That’s where many new vendable products were discovered, often by chance, for snack and food machines.

For many decades, new packaged snacks, confections and drinks with staying power on grocery shelves were good indicators of potentially successful vending products. Even today, a visit to a Whole Foods Market, Sprouts Farmers Market or Trader Joe’s might reveal the next cutting-edge product for vending machines or micro markets.

When micro markets arrived on the scene about 17 years ago, operators began to pay closer attention to convenience stores. No longer discovering ideas by coincidence, operators intentionally planned visits to popular c-stores to survey products, merchandising techniques and store layouts that could be adapted to a workplace break area

Whether it’s inspiration for something new or validation for what you’re already doing, exploration of the broader retail landscape remains a best marketing practice for operators. Vending industry observers, including micro market expert Steve Closser of Translucent LLC, continually emphasize the importance of embracing a retail mentality. “Operators have no choice but to operate with a retail mindset,” Closser says.

Fortunately, in addition to visiting shopping destinations, operators now have access to more external resources to help them improve that retail mindset. Whole Foods, for example, publishes annually its predictions for what will be popular in grocery aisles. And shared data from third-party food ordering and delivery services, providing snapshots of what consumers buy most, are abundant in the digital age. Following are insights that should be on the micro market operator’s radar.

The Next Big Things

Whole Foods Market’s 2022 Food Trends report provided clues to the ingredients and sources that consumers will be looking for in their snacks, drinks and meals. From products made with hyper-local crops to ingredients like yuzu citrus and hibiscus, these predictions from the supermarket chain famous for its organic selections will connect with millennials and Generation Z.

Whole Foods’ predictions are not too far fetched for the average micro market operator. As offices repopulate in 2022, there will be fewer baby boomer breakroom patrons and more millennial and Gen Z-ers, who will also be taking over key decision-making roles. Their preferences for unprocessed foods and priorities for a sustainable future are expected to weigh heavily on how workplaces are managed, including offerings from contract foodservice operators.

Best of the Neighborhood

Micro market operators are no strangers to new ideas. But unlike their close cousin convenience stores, which have the advantage of high-volume foot traffic, micro markets serve a limited clientele, so their shelves, coolers and freezers must be merchandised precisely to optimize sales. To be sure, not every micro market location is ready for the Whole Foods framework. So, if most of your locations prefer snacks, foods and drinks for the healthy-indulgent conflicted, that’s in line with the most-ordered items on the nation’s largest food delivery platform.

Check out DoorDash Inc.’s third annual Deep Dish Report for revelations about what consumers ordered most in 2021—and what fell from favor. Here are DoorDash’s most-ordered convenience items of 2021:

  • Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream
  • Lemon-lime soda
  • Mac and cheese bites
  • Peanut butter cups
  • Energy drinks
  • Sour cream and onion potato chips
  • Sour gummy worms
  • Beef jerky
  • Frosted mini donuts
  • Pickle bites

That’s A Lot of Impossible Cheeseburgers

As 2021 wound down, Grubhub looked back to see how its customers ate and drank their way through another year of change. The online and mobile food-ordering service’s annual Year in Food report analyzed orders from more than 32 million diners to see what rose in popularity throughout the year.

While 2020 was the year of comfort foods, and 2019 was full of vegetarian-friendly orders, 2021 was considered a mix of both in the Grubhub universe, with the Impossible cheeseburger rising to prominence. Mexican-inspired dishes were favorites across the board. Here are Grubhub's top 10 orders of the year (and popularity % increase).

  1. Impossible cheeseburger (+442%)
  2. Shredded pork taco (+310%)
  3. Apple pecan chicken salad (+287%)
  4. Detroit-style pizza (+263%)
  5. Margarita (+240%)
  6. Pub mac and cheese (+174%)
  7. Pork dumplings (+173%)
  8. Chicken burrito (+166%)
  9. Poke nacho (+158%)
  10. Lettuce wrap (+155%)

Challenging the Status Quo in 2022

When the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly hit in early 2020, operators across all foodservice segments confronted sudden change. Quick thinking and unparalleled adjustments were needed to survive, at first, and later to prepare and adapt for long-term success.

In year three of the pandemic, how can operators succeed? Mondelēz International Foodservice has identified six trends expected to enhance the foodservice industry in the new year and beyond—and how to lay the foundation for these concepts in 2022. Social responsibility, plant-based innovations and “craveable” comfort foods are concepts that operators should incorporate into their menus, Mondelēz International advised.

Grab and go, a micro market staple, will be even more important in 2022. “B&I should highlight convenience, affordability and flexibility to stay competitive with outside options,” the Mondelēz International report underscored.

Go here to see Mondelēz International’s recent trends report, titled “6 Trends Changing and Challenging the Foodservice Status Quo in 2022.” You can discover more about the latest micro market and foodservice trends at the company’s insights channel.