Hartman Group 2018 ACT Food & Beverage Culture Summits

As we near the end of our fifth year of presenting ACT Culture of Food & Beverage summits, we look back on eight key insights from this year’s summits in Miami Beach and San Diego. ACT is where the food and beverage industry’s marketers, strategists, innovators, brand managers and consumer insights practitioners gather to learn how to navigate this complex new consumer culture and marketplace. They come away smarter and inspired. At ACT, attendees gain fresh ideas to stimulate innovation, energize brands or find growth opportunities from the key presentations and networking sessions. They also have exclusive access to The Hartman Group’s intellectual capital, analysts and thought leaders. Here’s a sampling of what attendees tell us after experiencing ACT:

“I've been looking for reliable data on consumer behavior and insights into future trends, etc. Everything that was presented was relevant and extremely valuable in helping strategize our content planning into 2019 and beyond.”

“I wanted to hear about the latest food and consumer trends, with supporting data that would influence future content planning for my food clients. I got everything I needed from the event and had a lot of fun too!”

“One of my favorite events I attend for my job. Expertise is unparalleled in the industry, and the networking is great.”

Take a look back at these eight highlights that shaped ACT summits in 2018:

Growth can be found by innovating for any generational cohorts: From Gen Z to Boomers. 

Gen Z are a longer-term growth target as at present they do not make most of their food and beverage purchase decisions.  Gen X (the sandwich generation) are an underappreciated, and desirable, target as they are making food/beverage decisions for themselves, their Gen Z children and their aging Boomer parents.  However, using THG’s World of H&W segmentation approach can cast a wider and more accurate net than a generational cohort approach when innovating for new consumer targets.

Innovations in the food world are altering our traditional perception of “tidy” categories.

Taking advantage of the major structural shifts in many food and beverage categories requires detailed knowledge of macro trends in consumer purchase priorities and how their effects differ depending on the category. Even incumbent categories with long-standing places in American eating patterns can find themselves taking a back seat to challenger categories that better connect with emerging consumer desires. Similarly, as consumers become more accepting of premium private-label offerings, store brands can make gains in categories where value alone isn’t enough to compete. As food culture evolves, a consumer-centered view is the best way to comprehend the future of your categories.

Food and beverage companies are under pressure to deliver organic, volume-based topline growth.

Business leaders across all sectors of the food and beverage industry have zeroed in on portfolio development as the nexus of their growth strategies. However, product innovation and M&A efforts are only as effective as their go-to-market strategies. Delivering growth in a challenged market must come from beyond solely making a commitment to “innovation” or “brand/product incubation” but more holistically taking account of the entire go-to-market strategy through the lens of understanding the realities of consumers, categories, trends and channels.

Food sourcing today is happening everywhere, all the time.

The evolving channel landscape reveals a careful balancing act among today’s food purveyors with implications across the food industry: they are tapping into multiple drivers but avoid asserting that they own the consumer’s every occasion. They recognize that today’s eaters seek distinct choices and varied experiences in sourcing food, but the more strategic plays explore and exploit classic tensions — between health and convenience, or discovery and value — to deliver contemporary solutions for multiple motivations.

The desire for convenience is today’s number one single need state.

The desire for convenience is a key trend just like other trends (e.g., simple ingredients, unique flavor, positive nutrition), if not a cultural value. But not convenience just for the sake of convenience but as something in service of other food and lifestyle aspirations.

A new continuum for procuring food and beverage is emerging.

We introduce a new continuum of procurement. On one end is transactional, which is about convenience and price. On this side of the continuum, the act of purchasing is work. It needs to be done quickly and conveniently. On the other side of the continuum is experiential. This is journey-focused. It is about fun, play, discovery and customization.

Food is our greatest cultural expression.

We interpret through procuring, cooking, plating and eating. Shifts in food culture are happening so swiftly, yet as we evolve, so does our food and many of its associated rituals. Culture is not a product fixed in time. It is a vigorous and ongoing process that must be distilled and interpreted to best understand where we are headed in today’s ever-evolving food and beverage industry.

Technology has revolutionized the importance of customization in American food culture.

Personalizing is in our DNA. The desire to be unique is part of the broader American cultural context in which we all live. We like to “chef-up” our orders. All this “cheffing” is about freshness aspirations. Sauces, toppings and condiments actually make us feel like we are having an elevated eating/drinking experience. And now, having it your way is becoming more seamless, thanks to technology.


The Hartman Group’s ACT Summit is a powerful platform from which to acquire valuable knowledge about the factors and trends shaping your business today — and into the future. Let us bring ACT to your company. To learn how we can tailor a session for your business teams, contact blaine@hartman-group.com