North American Foodservice Consumers: One Size Does Not Fit All…

Foodservice trends increasingly take place on a global stage. Established brands are expanding into new markets on an unprecedented level, while advances in technology enable international trends to extend their reach, influencing consumer behavior on a global scale. To help identify global trends and opportunities, Technomic recently launched our Global Foodservice Consumer Series. Our first report in the series, The Comprehensive Guide to Foodservice Consumers: North America, explores the foodservice market and consumer culture in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Findings show that while many similarities exist, there are also distinct differences between these three markets.

An overarching theme of the study centers on differences in basic foodservice patronage, which, in large part, can be traced back to the much higher presence and usage of street foods in Mexico. Two-thirds of Mexican consumers (67 percent) say they purchase street foods at least once a month. Despite the recent explosion of street foods in the U.S., and to some extent in Canada, significantly fewer U.S. (27 percent) and Canadian (22 percent) consumers do the same.

This causes the foodservice market in Mexico to be more fragmented. Established brick-and-mortar chain restaurants dominate consumer purchases to a much greater extent in the United States and Canada than in Mexico. U.S. and Canadian consumers report that about seven out of 10 of their foodservice visits are to chain restaurants (68 percent and 69 percent, respectively). In comparison, Mexican consumers say that just slightly more than half (53 percent) of their foodservice visits are to chains.

Base: 1,000 consumers aged 18+ in each market
Source: The Comprehensive Guide to Foodservice Consumers: North America

Brand loyalty is also impacted. Canadians report the highest loyalty to brands, with 37 percent of these consumers saying they visit the same few restaurants each time they eat out. Americans enjoy a bit more variety; just 27 percent eat at the same few places for all of their foodservice visits while about a third prefer to visit a wide variety of familiar places (35 percent) or a mix of new and familiar spots (36 percent). However, consumers in Mexico eat at the widest array of locations with a majority (54 percent) reporting that they tend to visit a mix of familiar and new locations when purchasing food away from home.

This example serves as just one of many that confirm the value of global insights. Operators attempting to expand into Mexico (and to many other markets where street foods are more common than in the U.S.) will need to understand the role of street foods and their impact on the industry as a whole, while those operating domestically can use this data to help them understand the challenges that may result from the burgeoning street food movement. By and large, the research confirms that, even among markets and consumer groups that have much in common, distinct challenges and opportunities arise that must be considered when adapting a product or brand for a new audience.

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Kelly Weikel

Kelly Weikel is a Senior Consumer Research Manager at Technomic Inc. She manages the firm’s Consumer Trend Reports, a series of more than 25 annual studies that keep U.S., Canadian and U.K. foodservice professionals up to date on the evolving menu and consumer trends in key foodservice areas including: food and beverage categories, restaurant sectors, dining occasions, consumer segments and more.

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