"Supermarket Guru" Phil Lempert (left) talks with National Potato Council CEO John Keeling Jan. 10 during a live streaming interview at the 2018 Potato Expo in Orlando, Fla. ( Tom Karst )

ORLANDO, Fla. — Keeping up with consumer trends and the breakneck pace of technology may not be easy but it is necessary to thrive, Phil Lempert told 2018 Potato Expo attendees.

Lempert, known as the Supermarket Guru, covered his list of top 10 food industry trends of 2018 in Jan. 10 fast-moving talk on the Potato Expo’s first day.

“Consumers needs have changed and evolved and the retail landscape is changing dramatically,” Lempert said. “Smaller supermarkets, more fresh supermarkets — we are seeing all kinds of retail environments that are changing the potato world.”

Lempert said the ten trends are:

  • Mindfulness: More consumers are looking for assurance of transparency, local origin and great taste when they buy food. Consumers want brands that help solve problems. “We are moving away from saying that 40% of food is wasted to, ‘What can we do about it?’”
  • Tactile senses: Engaging all the senses is a hot trend in food marketing. “We are seeing more than ever before at retail and food companies, that they are creating an environment with all five senses — taste, smell, touch, sight and hearing,” he said.
  • NeuroNutrition or “biohacking:” Consumers are looking at particular health benefits of food they eat, and “free from” designations have increased dramatically.
  • “Food is the number-one cause of preventable death in the U.S., and what we eat does affect how we live, how long we live and how well we live,” he said.
  • Advertising: Peer opinions carry much more weight that online or print advertising, he said.
  • Technology and food: Within a few years millions of consumers will have refrigerators and other devices in their home connected to the Internet, making online purchasing and replenishments of food and non-food goods easier than ever.
  • Farming: Climate change will bring big challenges to growers. Hydroponic and vertical farming is a trend that continues to accelerate.
  • Food security: Hyper-local production of food could reduce food miles and gain in appeal.
  • Politics and food: The farm bill could become contentious in 2018, with less unity among Republicans and Democrats on nutrition programs.
  • Future supermarkets: Tesco in South Korea created virtual supermarkets in subway stations to help time-pressed shoppers. Fresh reputation can sustain brick and mortar stores.

Lempert urged attendees to look for trends outside the industry.

“(Look) for three things about consumers that you don’t know that you would like to know — and then go and find out,” he said.