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Non-Food For Thought: This Year’s Top Supermarket Trends

Naomi Sleeper
Naomi Sleeper

Last updated on February 13th, 2018 at 08:32 am

by Naomi Sleeper/Imperial Distributors

Last month, we explored 2017 product trends and our projection for them in 2018. Going beyond last year’s hottest items, projections for the supermarket industry’s biggest global trends in 2018 also have implications for performance of non-food categories this year. 

Here, we look at this year’s top trends anticipated by supermarket researchers “The Supermarket Guru” and The Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) and what they mean for non-foods.


“The Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert’s “2018 Food Trend Number 1” is mindfulness, referring not to meditation but to consumers’ awareness of the food they eat—its ingredients, sourcing and packaging. This Millennial-driven trend suggests shoppers’ focus on non-food product ingredients and materials, sourcing and packaging as well.

We have already seen the growing trend of shoppers’ thoughtfulness about ingredients in health, beauty and wellness (HBW) products with increased preference for fewer and simpler ingredients, driving growth in the natural channel. This trend is consistent with IGD’s predicted top five global trend of retailers “leading in lifestyle,” highlighting the expected continued growth of “better-for-you” and clean-living products this year. This growing trend has strong implications, not only for HBW products like body care and nutrition bars (like those mentioned in last month’s article), but also for general merchandise (GM) categories like pet products and houseware appliances (e.g., blenders, spiralizers and pressure cookers) that can facilitate healthier lifestyles. 

Where and how products are made is also important to shoppers. “Becoming hyperlocal,” explains IGF, jives with shoppers’ desire to support their community and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). While this trend draws attention to local farms, it also opens the door for small local manufacturers of non-food products to thrive within larger grocery retail contexts.


Lempert identifies “tactile” as the trend that will have the greatest impact this year. Referencing the resurgence of typewriters and Polaroid cameras, Lempert cites Auditory Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)—the same phenomenon attributed to the popularity of YouTube videos of slime, one of our 2017 top trend items discussed last month—as the reason behind growing focus on not just color but also sound and texture of food. Grocery stores can embrace this trend with sensory-stimulating food demos featuring chopping and sizzling of ingredients. Shoppers’ desire for tactile, in-store experiences also suggests opportunities for increased interest in non-food categories. “Try-me” lotions, soft plush toys in hand’s reach, open notebooks to thumb through and space to color with sample crayons on sale in the stationery department can all appeal to consumers’ keenness for tactile shopping and draw them into HBW and GM departments.

Perimeter, Meal Kits and & Culinary Arts

Tying into both mindfulness and tactile trends, the perimeter of the supermarket—host of nutrient-dense foods, fresh food samples and dazzling displays—has become a growth engine for supermarkets. Expansion of these fresh food departments and a trend shift in prepared foods—from ready-to-eat, food-on-the-go to meal kits that include perfectly portioned and prepped foods for at-home cooking—both point to today’s supermarkets’ cultivation of culinary arts. Supermarkets’ embracing of not just healthy eating but also healthy cooking trends can mean big sales opportunities in housewares categories. Demonstrating and prominently displaying cooking appliances, culinary tools and chef knives, not only in center-store departments but also around the perimeter, can complement fresh food and in-store meal kit offerings, while inspiring the inner chef in all shoppers.

Private label

IGF’s No. 1 key global trend for 2018 is the “premiumization of private label.” With increasing trust in the quality of private label, more shoppers are benefiting from the cost savings of purchasing private label product. As a population of loyal consumers grows, so does the demand for a broader range of private label products. At Imperial, we see continued growth in private label (Topco) sales, as well as expansion across both HBW and GM categories. With newer and better private label products, we look forward to continued growth for our customers in 2018. 

Keep reading:

New Year’s Projections For Last Year’s Hottest Non-Food Products

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