Picky, picky, picky.
Americans won’t eat — or drink — just anything anymore. Starbucks knows it. Whole Foods knows it. Frito-Lay knows it.
The driving forces are as diverse as the nation’s population. America is becoming a nation of ultraselective eaters. Selective as in: Gimme-a-world-of-choices-so-I-can-customize-my-diet. There’s a powerful sense of control in saying, ”Hold the bread” — or ”Hold the foam.”
”It’s a rejection of mass society,” says Ron Shaich, CEO of Panera Bread, which has amassed a $1 billion business in 10 years by customizing virtually every order. ”People just want to feel special.”
That’s changed the way consumers make one of their most basic decisions each day: what to eat.
Seventy percent of restaurant diners customized their orders in 2003, says the National Restaurant Association, which recently began tracking such habits. The group even has a term for it: the panache factor. ”We’ve developed an exorbitantly sophisticated palate,” says CEO Steven Anderson.
Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, which offered 34 flavors in 1977, sells 250 today — including options for nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and kosher ice cream.
* Arby’s, which sold one kind of roast beef sandwich when it was founded in 1964, now sells 30 sandwiches, most of which aren’t even roast beef.
* Starbucks not only has more than 19,000 ways it can serve a cup of coffee, but it has five kinds of milk to stir into it: whole, non-fat, half & half, organic and soy.
* Tropicana, which had two kinds of orange juice just a decade ago, now has 24. One, Healthy Heart, with six vitamins and minerals, is said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.