Truth or consequences is a business reality for food processors, retailers and foodservice operators.

It was a game show before there were game shows. Actually, “Truth or Consequences” began as a radio quiz show in 1940. This popular program then crossed over as television emerged, it became a starting point for legendary host Bob Barker and it ran (carried at different times by CBS and NBC) through 1988.

The format involved one or two audience contestants. If they could not answer a trivia question quickly and correctly – they had to perform a wacky stunt. Next, the host would select other audience members for smaller prize games.

Of course truth or consequences also is a business reality for food processors, retailers and foodservice operators. It’s a matter of seeking and knowing the truth (insight) about consumer and market trends – and then controlling the variables. Meanwhile, those companies passively responding to industry change will face the consequences.

Last year, the NPD Group suggested that everyone – processors, food retailers and consumers alike – had entered a “new normal” in this post-recessionary period. I believe that’s still the case … and still believe that there’s a strong case for cold, further-prepared foods.

Last October found the NPD’s Food & Beverage Group commenting on consumer preferences. In conjunction with its anniversary, NPD wrote, “Thirty years ago when The NPD Group began continuous tracking of America's eating behaviors, 72 percent of main dishes at dinner were homemade. Today 59 percent of main dishes are made- from-scratch with many households preferring ready-to-eat and frozen foods, and assembling a meal rather than preparing it.”

North American Food & Beverage President Mark East added, “The fast and hectic pace of the lives we lead has had the single greatest impact on this country's eating behaviors. It’s clear by the changes we’ve observed over the past 30 years that the Google generation wants things now.”

NPD notes that consumers “are eating many of the same foods they ate three decades ago, but how and who prepares the foods has changed. A sandwich is still among the top foods consumed but 30-years ago the sandwich was prepared by someone in the household. Today that sandwich is more likely ready-to-eat, frozen, or prepared by a restaurant or foodservice outlet.”

East concludes, “Americans have an ever increasing need for convenience when it comes to eating. We fully expect this trend to continue as ready-to-eat meals prepared outside the home and eaten in-home, fresh and frozen foods are all forecasted to grow notably in the next decade.”

Here are other more recent observations from market trackers Nielsen and SymphonyIRI Group.

“Frozen food sales have slowed since the recession officially ended. Yet the aisle still churns $40 billion-plus in annual sales, largely by suiting the nation’s need to conveniently juggle meal and snack times.” Nielsen, 2011 frozen food department review

“Growth is also evidenced across meal-related categories in the fresh / perishable and frozen food departments. Frozen prepared vegetable and refrigerated lunches are among the strongest-growing categories in those departments.” – SymphonyIRI, 2010 CPG Year in Review