Changing of the Guard – Chris DuBois and Melissa Rodriguez, IRi

Posted: Februar 14, 2023

Podcast Topic

Joining together to discuss the changes in customer-driven expectations are Chris DuBois and Melissa Rodriguez, both with IRI, a leading provider of big data and analytics.


Chris DuBois and Melissa Rodriguez (IRI)

Co-Host: Dr. Zack Lowman, Balchem

Episode 63: Changing of the Guard


Rodriguez led the conversation, describing IRI’s integration into data and technology innovation. She shared that IRI not only integrates retainer and media data, but also consumer and manufacturer data. 4:21

As inflation continues trending upward, Rodriguez added IRI is watching customer trends closely and finding shopping habits decreasing as prices continue to rise. 9:30

Multiple shifts have caused a change in spending habits for food consumption. From the changes of COVID-19 to an increase in the work-from-home community, DuBois said food consumption at restaurants has decreased. He went on to say that many restaurants sit empty as locations added drive through and to-go options. 13:25

Scott Sorrell, podcast host and director of global marketing for Balchem, asked if the IRI team had seen any shifts in protein consumption and what cuts of protein consumers are now consuming. 17:32

DuBois said ultimately, each protein is serving a different category of consumers, adding trends are shifting towards creativity for all kinds. Rodriguez then went on to say she’s seen a large shift to chicken thighs and chicken wings because of the consumer’s option to smoke, grill or even use the air fryer for the cuts. 18:02

One of the largest innovations to the protein sector has been boneless thighs, DuBois mentioned, adding they are now one of the biggest products in the supermarket. 22:54

Without a doubt, the Ukrainian war has had a significant impact on both consumers and suppliers in the U.S. The largest impact came from the cost of feed for the west coast, DuBois said. He added that when grain comes from overseas, unless there is a form of vertical integration, managing the cost on the wholesale side becomes a large factor. 27:30

Shifting the conversation, Sorrell asked the IRI team what they believed the five biggest trends for the future might be. 28:45

For consumers, there isn’t a one size fits all approach. Rodriguez added that no two consumer generations are alike – the boomers, millennials, Gen Z, etc. She went on to say that 2030 looks to be a turning point for the U.S. population. The next ten years anticipate trend shifts towards product innovation, digital engagement, sustainability, consumer engagement and generational exposure. 32:10

As IRI continues to focus on the generational impact of food consumption and trends, DuBois said they had found generational trends to cycle, and now they are seeing some of the same items reoccur. For example, he mentioned that Asian cooking oils are on the rise versus vegetable oils and others, adding the focus is now on the buyer groups. 38:15

Trends are on the rise in the U.S., but are there the same trends and changes globally? DuBois said if he were to walk the supermarkets in Europe, he would see the same merchandising tactics and product marketing. He went on to say there seems to be a more open door in product communication between the processors, market and customers as the U.S. often lacks in the producer-to-consumer relationship. 48:21

Wrapping up the conversation, Rodriguez said she encourages the industry to focus on studying the response rate for key categories and how each generation responds to those changes. She added that these statistics would ultimately give direction as to what to expect for the next few years. 50:30

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