Feb 21, 2012 • By

Never shop or eat alone

If you own a smartphone or tablet, you’re right in the middle of the second of the “5 Food Trends for 2012” that we’re highlighting this week.

Today’s trend is “Never shop or eat alone.”

Technology is at the heart of this one, guiding consumers as they shop, prepare food and eat – at home and away-from-home – alone, or with others.

It’s no surprise that apps for phones and tablets are driving this trend. In the store, apps are being used in a variety of ways, and that’s only going to increase. Consumers are accessing store information, coupons, recipes and nutrition information, as well as connecting to other consumers with common food interests.

Many stores also are enhancing the in-store mobile/social networking experience by using location-based promotions and offers.

“With mobile, someone might be going down the grocery aisle, and you could pop up with a recipe for a new Pillsbury Crescent appetizer. And it could be, ‘Try this, here’s 50 cents off,’ and a list of everything they need,” says Katy Dickson, vice president of Marketing Excellence and Integration at General Mills.

Katy says it’s about having the right content in the right place at the right time.

“Mobile opens up a world of opportunity because we can offer solutions directly at the point of need. More and more, people tend to have their mobile device with them at all times.”

We’ve also seen stores streamline the checkout process with mobile payment apps, like what the “Scan It!” app does at Stop&Shop. It allows consumers to scan, tally and pay for groceries on their phones.

Digital wallets, with the ability to pay for products with your phone, also are in the mix.

Research also has shown that technology plays a big role in the planning process for a shopping trip, and how people plan the meals they want to prepare.

Look no further than the popularity of several Betty Crocker mobile products including the Betty Crocker Cookbook iPad app, as well as apps for the iPhone, Android, Windows Phone and a mobile website for people who’d prefer to surf the Web for recipes. Betty’s iPad app was one of the first cookbooks for the device and is one of its most popular.

When you know what you want to make, you know what ingredients to shop for. So it makes sense to open a cookbook app before you go to the store, or bring it with you into the aisles.

As it all unfolds, both retailers and manufacturers are thinking about their next steps by learning more about how consumers are using the technology at our fingertips, today.

Editor’s note: This is the second post in a five-part series, “5 Five Food Trends for 2012,” as compiled by Consumer Insights at General Mills. Read about the other trends we profiled: “Free from gluten,” “Boomer nutrition” and “Sustainability sustains.”