Category Insights: A Year in Review  12/31/2015

Earlier this year we started our Event insights articles, in which we report on category trends and issues gathered from the in-person interviews, or Event Debriefings, that the ECRM team members conduct with buyers and sellers during our EPPS events. Since our events, by their nature, are at the cusp of buyer’s planning cycles, these conversations enable us to catch product trends as they arise.

Following are some key trends we’ve tracked throughout 2015 via these Event Debriefings, along with links to the full stories from which they came:

Consumer electronics: Electronics products are breaking down traditional category barriers and branching out into other sectors. For instance, fitness especially wearables like activity bands, smartwatches, smart eyewear and other health related devices are making their way into the electronics assortments and vice versa. Niche offerings, such as home automation products, are also making their way into mass retail, such as the intelligent thermostat and smoke detectors from NEST.

Skin, Bath, Cosmetics & Fragrances: Natural products and luxury/prestige offerings are a top trend in this category, as well as wellness-related products across beauty categories, from supplements for hair loss and liquid nutraceuticals. Within cosmetics, consumers are also looking for multipurpose products that are not only make-up, but work as treatments as well. The same holds true for hair products and ethnic beauty categories.

Personal Fitness/Diet, Vitamin & Sports Nutrition: An aging population and rising healthcare costs are driving consumers to take better care of themselves, and this is generating increased demand for personal fitness equipment and diet, vitamin, and sports nutrition products that supplement these healthy lifestyles.

Pharmacy, Hospital and Alternate Sites: Millions of people are prescribed medications each year, but unless these patients are taking them consistently and on schedule, there will continue to be gaps in the efficacy of care. With outcome based payment models becoming increasingly more prevalent, it is essential that the healthcare industry invests resources in finding new techniques and technology that helps patients adhere to proscribed medication regimens.

Household, GM and Value Merchandise: The household, general merchandise and value industries are very mature categories with a large variety of players in the marketplace, and one might say that the constant influx of new products and suppliers is both a key challenge and opportunity, as retail buyers and suppliers must stay on top of the latest consumer trends in order to select the assortments that best match their markets. Some key trends are an increased focus on products aimed at women, and eco-friendly products. As always, novel and innovative products always resonate with consumers in this category.

Sun Care: Sunless tanning products – particularly prestige items – are gaining in popularity among consumers and are helping retailers offset the seasonality of the sun care category.

Electronic cigarettes: According to Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Bonnie Herzog, while overall Wells Fargo remains bullish on the broad vapor category – expecting sales to surpass those of combustible cigarettes by 2025 – category growth has moderated, and an improvement in technology is needed for category growth to accelerate. Suppliers are addressing this with improvements in vapor delivery, longer-lasting batteries, and a range of vaping accessories.

International Food: Healthy foods are popular among buyers in international markets, including gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free, super seeds, and organic. More people are intolerant or have allergies these days, but they aren’t the only ones seeking these products. Even those without allergies feel better about eating these foods.

Snack, Beverage & Grocery: Shoppers are paying more attention to product attributes that indicate the wellness needs they are seeking (such as Gluten-free or other health claims), and less attention to former mainstays of packaging and brand name. In fact, packaging and brand name carry the least amount of purchase influence among health-minded consumers compared to other attributes such as health claims and ingredient listings, according to the ECRM/HellaWella study.

Natural, Organic & Specialty Foods: Several key trends were top-of-mind among buyers and sellers of natural and organic foods, including convenience, free-from products, and proteins. Among specialty items, local, artisanal and single-serve items are trending among consumers, according to attendees, but as there is a huge crossover among specialty and natural/organic items, the trends below apply to both.

Frozen, Refrigerated & In-Store Bakery: Gluten-free is still growing in these categories, and the products continue to improve, but with so many suppliers addressing this segment it is in danger of saturation. Differentiation is more important than ever for manufacturers of these products. Other key product trends in these categories are ease of use, innovative packaging, natural and organic ingredients, and the use of smaller case packs.

Wine, Beer & Spirits: Several key trends in these categories were summarized by one of the ECRM Global Wine, Beer & Spirits EPPS attendees: “We’re seeing a mix of one-third national brands, one-third treasure hunt wines, and one-third control labels in retail,” said the attendee. “Consumers are trading up from $8 bottles of wine to the $12-15 range. International wines are creating attention for control labels, with wines from the southern hemisphere gaining in popularity. Packaging is playing more of a role, particularly among millennials.”

School & Office Supplies: The adult coloring book hobby -- which falls under the crafts category as does scrapbooking -- is so popular that the category represents eight of the current 20 bestselling books on Amazon, and five adult coloring books made the list of Amazon’s Top 20 most Wished for Books for 2015. Now they are everywhere, including airport book stores and newsstands!

Health Care: The growing interest in and popularity of all-natural and organic products is touching many healthcare categories including first aid, foot care, eye/ear, digestives, analgesics and allergy. In addition, consumers are increasingly choosing natural and homeopathic treatments, and product categories focused on disease prevention, such as probiotics, are growing.

Halloween Candy: Novelty, sour and other non-chocolate candy proved to be a more popular options over chocolate for Halloween, according to event attendees, likely due to the rise in cocoa prices as sugar prices stay steady. Also, flavors like caramel apple are becoming more popular because they are branded as a seasonal flavor option which can be sold after Halloween and into Thanksgiving. Gluten-free and peanut free were also trending product

Easter Candy: Kids may have a harder time finding Easter eggs next year – not because they are well-hidden, but because their parents can’t find them on the store shelves as candy buyers and sellers say they might reduce the amount of holiday-specific items they sell due to 2016’s super-early Easter.

Pet: Social media is HUGE in the pet category – but mostly consists of photos and videos of dogs and cats in funny outfits or doing outrageous things. Those pet retailers and brands who join in on the social conversations will benefit from increased engagement with these pet-loving consumers. Brad Nix, Partner with social media strategic consultancy Brand Chorus discusses social media trends in the pet category, and provides some tips for pet retailers and suppliers looking to up their social media game in this three-part video series:

Social Media & Pet, Part 3


Joseph Tarnowski

VP Content

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