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Everybody eats, but what we eat and when we eat is shifting and that's keeping grocers on their toes when it comes to offering the right products at the right price.
"The consumer is moving from one desire after the other," said Randy Evins, a food consultant for SAP Retail. "The food retailer has got to be prepared to move very quickly as those demands from that customer happen, or change. They gotta be able to react quickly to get the product and services to keep up with it."
Organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, less sodium and protein-packed: consumers' craving for "healthy" has shaken up the snack foods aisle and helped some companies stand out. Diamond Foods, maker of protein-packed nut mixes like Emerald brand and Diamond of California, saw its snack segment revenues grow almost 10 percent last quarter. Diamond's Kettle brand chips also land on many "top health snack" lists.
Hain Celestial, Boulder brands and Annie's are other players offering organic, gluten-free foods that RBC Capital Market's analyst David Palmer counts as winners.
"The natural and organic space is on fire," Palmer said. "It's never been a better time to be in business in natural and organic from a demand perspective."
Over the last few years, consumers' shift from three standard meals per day to smaller, more frequent meals is fueling snack sales. The key millennial demographic is also particularly interested in fast, fresh, healthy, farm-to-table options, spurring more trips to local grocery stores instead of national supermarkets.
Straight-from-the-farm food options are paramount for grocery store profits. Consumers are willing to pay a premium, but only to a point. According to a PWC report, 67 percent of consumers said competitive prices are still a factor when it comes to where to shop, with 47 percent seeking out farmer's market options within the store.
Kroger leads the grocery pack when it comes to checking off the requirements on shoppers' lists. Evins said the grocer is leading the charge when it comes to stocking shelves with fresh, healthy, organic choices at competitive prices, leaving rivals playing catch-up.
Finding the perfect recipe to fulfill shoppers' demands isn't easy when the only thing constant in grocery is changing tastes.