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White Paper

The Case for Cultural Demand Forecasting

How do you approach innovation and design ideation in a way that doesn’t merely respond to trends, but drives category leadership and propels revenue growth?

Over the past decade, demand space frameworks have emerged as a trusted tool to help food and beverage companies identify areas of growth that can shape strategy, marketing, and product innovation. However, many in the industry disagree on the RIGHT approach to developing and implementing these frameworks.

This white paper explores the secret to successful demand forecasting: a cultural perspective.

Publication date: May 2024
14 pages

White Paper

Social Sacrifice: The changing ideals of American eating

The link between food and social connection is deeply tied to American history and has formed many of our cultural norms. However, our culture continues to change. Three meals a day are giving way to more frequent snacking, the cultural significance of meals is waning, and hyper-individualism is impacting all areas of our lives.

This white paper explores the evolving nature of consumer eating habits, particularly the decline in “traditional” family meal structures and the broader societal shifts that point to both cultural implications and business opportunities.

Publication date: February 2024
14 pages

White Paper

Unseasonably early holidays: A winning brand strategy?

Limited-time offers (LTOs) have become ubiquitous in the food and beverage industry, especially around the holidays. But have you noticed that these festive promotions are creeping into retail stores earlier than ever before? LTOs are arriving earlier, lasting longer, and there are more options than ever before. Consumers, and even some retailers, have mixed feelings about it.
We take a critical look at this phenomenon in this new white paper, examining both consumer and industry perspectives to answer the question: Are we approaching a cultural breaking point with holiday promotions? Readers will gain a deeper understanding of how macro trends are shaping consumer perceptions around the holidays, plus implications for brands seeking to form mindful, long-term connections with consumers.
Publication date: October 2023
14 pages

White Paper

Signs, Codes & Trends: How semiotics can align your brand with culture

Consumers are increasingly influenced by (and influencing) the unpredictable currents of culture, politics, identity, economics and entertainment. To fully understand how and why consumers are changing, it’s critical to grasp how the broader culture they live in is changing.  

This white paper dives deep into the semiotic analysis method, which can convincingly explain the “whys” of consumer behavior by locating specific cultural and psychological triggers. Through in-depth case studies and real-world applications, this white paper illuminates how semiotics differs from – and can support – traditional qualitative and quantitative methods, and how to leverage this method to unlock a brand’s soul while remaining in-step with rapidly shifting culture. 

Publication Date: August 2023
18 pages

White Paper

Fermenting the Future: The Growing Opportunity for Products Made with Precision Fermentation

We are on the cusp of a revolution in food production. The past several years have seen a rapid acceleration of innovation in food technology. New and imminent breakthroughs and product launches related to novel methods of food production are increasingly putting food science and technology in the spotlight. Among these innovations is precision fermentation, an evolution of the familiar process of fermentation that can reproduce ingredients such as protein and sweetener at a reduced environmental footprint without compromising taste, texture, and nutrition. 
This white paper, based on primary qualitative and quantitative research conducted by The Hartman Group and sponsored by Perfect Day and Cargill, examines consumer perceptions, attitudes, and purchase drivers related to science and technology in food, with a specific focus on precision fermentation. The white paper highlights consumers’ growing belief that science and technology may be necessary for addressing the most urgent issues facing the food system and planet and shows that the current and future market for products made using precision fermentation is sizeable. For the food industry, this represents a pivotal moment and a unique opportunity to align with and empower consumers’ evolving values and priorities while being at the vanguard of the future of food.

White Paper

A New Landscape of Eating: 2022 Eating Occasions Report Highlights

Leveraging The Hartman Group’s proprietary Eating Occasions Compass Database, this special report highlights findings from A New Landscape of Eating: 2022 Eating Occasions Report which explores U.S. adult eating behaviors in 2022 and how aspects have shifted from previous years. The report is derived from analysis of Hartman’s Eating Occasions Compass database which analyzes dayparts, location, social composition, need states, food and beverage categories consumed and broadly when and where items were acquired.
 Selected highlights in the report include:
  •    Participation in eating occasions across the day
  •    The social context of eating 
  •    Eating location 
  •    Restaurant sourced eating occasions
  •    Cooking and degree of preparation 
  •    5 key takeaways and implications 
Publication date: February 2022
13 pages

White Paper

Closing the Gap in Sustainability

Closing the Gap in Sustainability builds on over 25 years of Hartman Group research and strategic analysis relating to how consumers frame sustainable beliefs and behaviors in a world increasingly dominated by headlines that intersect with the topic. As documented in our biannual studies on the topic, consumer familiarity with the term “sustainability” has grown steadily in recent years, but consumer confidence in identifying sustainable products and companies lags behind.

Closing the Gap in Sustainability highlights how the gap between general familiarity with sustainability’s meaning and a seeming inability to identify products and companies with the term represents a significant opportunity for companies to stand out from the crowd and clearly communicate their sustainable practices and product attributes since, at the end of the day, consumers want to reward you with their purchases.

Closing the Gap in Sustainability describes how sustainability’s importance as a purchase criterion has grown over time and notes that if younger consumers are an indicator of future trends, sustainable purchasing will continue to rise. Companies can help consumers live in accordance with their values by taking a loud and clear stand in this arena.

The white paper identifies and analyzes key components of closing the gap and includes discussion of key environmental and social issues including:

  • Packaging and Plastics
  • Pollution, Resource Use and Climate Change
  • Agriculture
  • Economic Vulnerability
  • Labor
  • Social Justice
  • Recommendations for Food and Beverage Companies

Publication Date: April 2022
18 Pages


Shifting Food Habits & Routines: 2021 Eating Occasions

This special report explores the context, needs and behaviors associated with eating and drinking occasions. Utilizing The Hartman Group’s proprietary Eating Occasions Compass database, Shifting Food Habits & Routines: 2021 Eating Occasions explores American eating and drinking occasions in 2021 compared to data from both 2020 and 2019. It was researched and prepared by Hartman’s Retainer Services team and provides our analysts’ perspectives to help marketers connect to the cultural changes occurring in the U.S. 

Shifting Food Habits & Routines: 2021 Eating Occasions finds that in late 2021 some aspects of eating normalized while others continued to be impacted by COVID-19 as consumers adjusted to new routines and habits or settled into old ones. As of late 2021, concern over COVID-19 remained high leading many consumers to take precautions, adjusting both shopping and eating routines to minimize risk. Remote work also continued to impact consumers’ eating habits. At the same time, many consumers resumed life as “normal,” which includes activities such as dining out at restaurants or using takeout/delivery services. Since summer 2021, the share of food spending at restaurants versus retail once again closely resembled pre-pandemic behaviors. 

Topics explored in the report include:

·       Participation in eating occasions across the day
·       Snacks and at-home eating
·       The social context of eating 
·       Restaurant sourced eating occasions
·        Cooking and degree of preparation 
·       Leftover consumption, eating occasions and the role of restaurants
·       Trading up for delicious flavor experiences

Publication date: March 2022
15 pages



Six Key Trends in Modern Food Culture

This special trend report examines six key trends in consumer culture through the lens of leading-edge food and beverage marketplace examples. It was researched and prepared by Hartman’s Retainer Services team and provides the unique approach our analysts take in forecasting resonant trends through cultural changes occurring in the US.
About Ideas in Food 2022
To demonstrate how these six key trends are playing out, Hartman analysts explored how cues, claims and brand narratives are being leveraged to connect with the evolving consumer. By highlighting resonant product attributes, we’ve identified areas that represent table stakes claims for current significance as well as differentiator claims for brands to consider for future growth.

White Paper

Trends Spotlight: Sober Curious

This special report examines the evolving low/no-alcohol trend in consumer culture and the food and beverage market. It was researched and prepared by Hartman’s Retainer Services team and provides our analysts perspectives to help marketers connect to the cultural changes occurring in the U.S. 
About Trends Spotlight: Sober Curious
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest trends in the beverage landscape was the rise in consumer interest in low- and no-alcoholic beverages, largely driven by consumers’ health-centered concerns. The pandemic seemingly altered the trajectory of this trend overnight, but despite a boozy pandemic surge in alcohol sales, the sober curious countermovement that we first noticed in previous years has continued to gain relevance as new products have appeared on the market that meet emerging consumer needs for more mindful drinking, personalization, functionality, and flavor.
Publication date: August 2021
13 pages 
If you would like to learn more about our foresight and trends analysis capabilities, please contact: shelley@hartman-group.com


Redefining Normal: Spring 2021 Eating Occasions

This special report explores the context, needs and behaviors associated with eating and drinking occasions. It was researched and prepared by Hartman’s Retainer Services team and provides our analysts perspectives to help marketers connect to the cultural changes occurring in the U.S.

About Redefining Normal: Spring 2021 Eating Occasions
Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers continue to seek out certain aspects of “normalcy” in day-to-day eating. However, some behaviors have and will continue to be impacted by the pandemic, including when we’re choosing to eat, where we’re eating, who we’re eating with, how we’re sourcing, and the need states driving our food and beverage occasions. Utilizing The Hartman Group’s proprietary Eating Occasions Compass, this report explores American eating and drinking occasions in spring 2021 compared to both the beginning of (spring 2020) and pre-pandemic (spring 2019).

Publication date: August 2021
24 pages


Eating Occasions 2020

Leveraging The Hartman Group’s proprietary 2020 Eating Occasions Compass Database, we analyzed the 8 key eating occasions across the day: early morning snack, breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner, after dinner snack, and late night meal/snack. Within each of the dayparts, we provide the size of the occasion, who was present, what was consumed, where it was sourced, demographics and need states – many of which include statistically significant notations from 2019, highlighting the impact of COVID-19.


COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating – December 2020

Today, COVID-19 continues to play a role in how Americans eat, yet there is a strong desire to achieve normalcy. The occasion context, including where and with whom we eat with, is looking much more like pre-pandemic eating when compared to both the spring and summer. Restaurant food continues to have a strong presence in everyday eating and the high levels of cooking engagement witnessed in the spring never returned. This report highlights the top takeaways from our most recent fall fielding of our eating occasions survey, including how occasions today compare with this time last year and how things have shifted throughout 2020.


COVID-19’s Continued Impact on Eating – Fall 2020

As we first reported in COVID-19’s Impact on Eating in spring 2020, the basic rhythms of meals and snacks were virtually unaffected across dayparts (i.e., Americans were participating in the same eating occasions as they were prior to the pandemic). However, COVID-19 had largely disrupted other aspects of eating, including the occasion context, sourcing, and preparation. This report highlights the top takeaways from our most recent summer fielding of our eating occasions survey, including how some of the earlier behaviors have shifted as well as new observations. It contains a brief overview of key shifts in eating and drinking occasions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

White Paper

Happy Holidays? Consumer Optimism and Realism Collide in the Era of COVID-19

What are consumers thinking when it comes to celebrating the holidays during the pandemic?
Consumers often approach the holidays with mixed emotions, and this year is no different, yet in one very important way it is: Typically, the holidays are a time of togetherness, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, togetherness can pose serious risks. Recent Hartman Group research with consumers revealed the majority of consumers are still very or extremely concerned about the threats posed by COVID-19 as it pertains to themselves and their family.

White Paper

COVID-19 and New Modern Convenience

Convenience is a key consideration for consumers when it comes to food and beverage choices, but what does convenience look like when a global pandemic throws normal schedules and routines into disarray? The latest Hartman Group white paper, COVID-19 and New Modern Convenience, dissects how the fundamental components and expressions of modern convenience have been translated into the COVID-19 era and analyzes which of these shifts will have long-term impacts on consumer decisions.


COVID-19’s Impact on Eating

Leveraging the Spring 2020 wave of our proprietary Eating Occasions Compass, this report highlights how COVID-19 is impacting Americans’ eating and drinking behaviors. The basic rhythms of meals and snacks, including when and what we eat, remain virtually unaffected across dayparts. Yet, at the same time, we are witnessing unprecedented disruption around where we eat, who is present, how we’re sourcing and planning, the amount of cooking we’re engaging in, and key need states throughout the day. This report also includes spotlights on the dayparts most impacted by COVID-19 (lunch, dinner and snacking occasions) and food service.

White Paper

Value in the Time of COVID-19

What is the consumer understanding of value? How do individuals evaluate the worth of products and services in an ever-competitive food landscape? These questions continue to be a perennial topic of interest for business leaders in the food and beverage space. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended daily life, the economy and the food landscape, such questions are more imperative than ever.

In this Hartman Group white paper, we discuss how COVID-19 has surfaced a number of new attitudes, behaviors and considerations that consumers are bringing to their calculus of value, and identify key questions and strategic implications that those in the food business must address as they pursue growth post-COVID-19.


The Future of Food: A Hartman Group Perspective

The COVID-19 pandemic instantaneously and dramatically altered life as we knew it. After months of enduring the pandemic, many are longing for a return to “normal.” But when will the crisis end, and how will normal look? This special Hartman Group thought leadership white paper discusses how  consumers lives have changed — how consumers live, eat, and work as well as what they value and the effects on the food industry years to come.


To Premiumize or Not to Premiumize

Premiumization is the gold standard of contemporization strategies for legacy brands today. In this issue, we outline a premiumization agenda for legacy portfolios that is both practical and selective. Ultimately, premiumization is not a strategy suited to all legacy brands. And when it is done, it should be done carefully by understanding a brand’s symbolic context as well as the most brand-relevant premium attributes driving growth in the brand’s categories.