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Eat to Live: Dining in 10 years



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Aug 29, 2005 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- While most of us probably have no idea what we'll be having for dinner tonight, consumer research analysis firm Datamonitor has just launched its predictions of what we will be eating 10 years from now.

Datamonitor has identified 10 factors that food producers will need to take into account if they are to continue to develop their businesses.

Apparently our food-buying decisions are no longer just based upon what we enjoy. Manufacturers must consider our age, gender, income level and lifestyle. While possibly none of this is a revelation, our desire for health and convenience has increased, along with our sense of self, our desire for comfort and sensual experience, and what Datamonitor calls "connectivity."

"Successful products must be founded on at least one and ideally several of these mega-trends, but the challenge will be maintaining a close eye on how the mega-trends evolve," says Daniel Bone, consumer market analyst and author of the study.

It's no longer enough for a food to be easier to prepare, it must also be good for us. The study finds 90 percent of U.S. and European consumers believe improving health is important. In 2003-4, 64 percent of U.S. and European consumers indeed took "steps" to do so. Datamonitor predicts a strong growth area in what it calls "health-on-the-go" -- good-for-you convenience foods.

As to age, it's no longer a question of pegging a food to a particular stage in life. Now manufacturers will have to consider our aspirational age -- the age that we wish we were. The parent age group apparently indulges its childishness, while much younger consumers are becoming increasingly autonomous in their spending power, more brand-aware and loyal. So food marketing will have to target shared attitudes and values to reach a wide range of consumers.

Those of us who only need to look in a mirror to confirm we're not the age we feel inside are part of the growing group that seeks out comfort food. Fifty-five percent of U.S. and European consumers in 2003-4 confessed to enjoying "small indulgences to escape the pressures of everyday life." (Is this that moment when we hid the yogurts at the bottom of the shopping bag and reached for the bag of sour-cream-and-onion chips?)

We're also getting far more adventurous in our eating. Sixty percent of us in the United States and Europe in 2003-4 tried food and drinks we'd never had before and -- this is the "connectivity" -- we also like foods that make us feel part of the community and demonstrate shared values.

With singles on the increase in Western societies, self-oriented gratification is also on the rise. More than half of U.S. and European consumers look for brands that match their attitudes and outlook, "products and services designed for specific needs" being bought by more than 66 percent of those surveyed. "Future product concepts will increasingly allow consumers to customize and/or co-create products to suit their preferences," reports Datamonitor. Remember that M&M campaign when we could vote on the next new color?

Weighing this information, I've decided what I want for supper is calorie-free curried chocolate soup. But until the manufacturers come up with it in a biodegradable, microwavable package, I suggest the following, which is fast to prepare, healthy, young but sophisticated, and a bit adventurous. It's adapted from Jamie Oliver's book "The Naked Chef" (Penguin).

MIXED LEAF SALAD WITH MOZZARELLA, MINT, PEACH AND PROSCIUTTO

-- A handful of arugula or mixed leaves per person

-- 1 ripe peach per person

-- 1/2 ball of mozzarella per person

-- 2 slices of prosciutto or Parma ham per person torn into thick strips along fat lines

-- 2-3 mint leaves per person

-- Olive oil

-- Lemon juice, salt and pepper

Pinch the skin of the peach, peel and quarter and set upon a plain white serving plate over the leaves.

Roughly tear the mozzarella into small pieces and add to plate.

Lightly season.

Lay slices of prosciutto informally over peaches and cheese. Toss torn mint leaves over all.

Dress salad with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice and serve.

Copyright 2005 by United Press International.

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